Holden stays, HRT brand moves
has allayed fears it would end its long involvement in Australian motorsport by announcing Triple Eight Race Engineering will represent the Red Lion in the Supercars Championship for three seasons from next year. In the biggest touring car news of 2016, the Holden Racing Team brand will move from Walkinshaw Racing to the newly named Red Bull Holden Racing Team. Two V8-engined VF Commodores will be entered under the new banner in 2017 for Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen.
Triple Eight will also develop a Supercars version of the next generation Commodore on behalf of Holden, to debut in 2018. This will be based on the 2017 Opel Insignia road car that is expected to be officially confirmed as the first fully-imported Commodore. The 2018 Supercars Commodore is likely to be powered by a turbo six, reflecting the powerplant in the rebadged Insignia, which will not be offered with a V8.
Moving the HRT brand is a major blow to Walkinshaw Racing, which has operated as the factory team under the Holden-owned HRT brand since 1990. The arrangement netted no fewer than seven Bathurst 1000 victories in that period, including the 1996 victory by Craig Lowndes and Greg Murphy that’s the focus of this issue’s cover story.
Holden’s decision to move the HRT moniker, signifying factory status for a team, will create a third distinct chapter in the history of the iconic brand.
The HRT nameplate was created in 1989, when Larry Perkins was appointed to field VL Commodores in selected Group A events on behalf of Fishermans Bend. It was a short-lived relationship as Tom Walkinshaw secured the deal for the following season, beginning a 26-year stretch – with the odd ownership hiccup along the way – that will end at this year’s Sydney 500 on December 4: the Homebush event that has also reached the end of the road.
Where this leaves the two-car Walkinshaw team remains to be seen. After Tom Walkinshaw’s death in 2010, his widow Martine and son Ryan took over the reins. The latter, in the immediate aftermath of the bombshell, pledged to press on.
Triple Eight’s undisputed status as Holden’s spearhead is the realisation of Irish-born team supremo Roland Dane’s long-held ambition. Not only will Triple Eight develop, build and race the next-generation Commodore Supercar, the Queensland operation will also be the exclusive supplier of cars to other non-factory teams. Exactly what this means is not yet clear, with the likes of Brad Jones Racing expecting to still be able to build their own cars from T8supplied kits.
Amaroo Park February 1990