23Red Racing has announced it will depart the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship with immediate effect following the withdrawal of title sponsor Milwaukee Tool Australia.
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The economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have left many businesses around the world with difficult decisions to make, and for Milwaukee that included a reassessment of their sporting activities.
“Milwaukee uses sport and other sponsorships to engage and connect with our customers and we have been absolutely committed to motorsport and our three-year partnership with 23Red Racing,” said Milwaukee national business manager - brand, Tom Mathiesen.
“It’s been an incredibly tough decision and after much deliberation, we have brought forward the end of our contract to focus on our primary business objectives.”
Without their major backer, 23Red confirmed they will be closing operations “prior to June 2020”.
That likely leaves driver Will Davison on the outer in an unfortunate twist for the two-time Bathurst 1000 winner who had started the season with a pair of top five finishes in Adelaide.
Team owner Phil Munday was clearly saddened by the development, having launched 23Red in 2018 as an evolution of the Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport squad he had previously sponsored.
23Red started out as a solo Ford team before moving under the Tickford Racing banner in 2019. Davison was their driver throughout; it’s currently unclear what his next step will be.
“I’ve been in motorsport my entire working career and since the inception of 23Red Racing, I’ve been nothing short of committed to building a front-running team,” said Munday in a statement.
“The start to the 2020 season showed signs we were in contention of consistent podiums, the results any team owner would want.
“The uncertainty and unprecedented times have forced some tough decisions.
“It is deeply saddening to exit the sport earlier than planned however we are certainly proud of our achievements.”
The team statement made a point of thanking Milwaukee for an “exceptional partnership”.
It further read: “The team want to thank all staff, sponsors and most importantly our loyal fans involved in this journey, it has been truly memorable.”
Tickford Racing released a statement of its own, indicating they are “keeping in close contact with 23Red Racing in assessing future options”.
It continued: “Our aim is to continue fielding four competitive Ford Mustang Supercars when we return to business, and we eagerly await the resumption of the Supercars season.
“We are working diligently on the options available to accomplish this goal, and are optimistic we will be able to provide an update on this in the near future.”
Davison and 23Red together enjoyed highs of second-place finishes at Queensland Raceway and The Bend last year en route to eighth in the championship.
Munday is understood to still own his Racing Entitlements Contract at this point in time.
There are still expected to be 24 cars on the grid when the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship does resume, with mounting speculation of a return for 2010 champion James Courtney.