Factory Holden fight heats up

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 08/07/2014
  • By V8 Supercars

The gloves are off in the battle between the resurgent Holden Racing Team and Red Bull Racing Australia.

Unimpressed by Craig Lowndes' three separate hits on his drivers Garth Tander and James Courtney on the opening lap of Race 20 at the Castrol Townsville 500 - Driven by TAFE Queensland, HRT boss Adrian Burgess has declared his team's willingness to match the rival Holden factory squad hit for hit.

"If we have got to play that hard we will play that hard," he told v8supercars.com.au. "We will play as hard as those cars and if that is what they are doing already then it shows they are worried about us.

"And they should be worried about us."

There is a belief within HRT that RBRA owner Roland Dane doesn't like the improving pace it is showing because that potentially challenges his team's status as the best Holden factory team.

Tander said as much after Race 22 on Sunday, when he raced Lowndes' teammate Jamie Whincup hard for the win, including running deep into turn two under brakes and hitting the rear of his rival's Commodore VF.

"I wanted to send a small message to him and his team boss that I am not forgotten about yet," Tander said.

"I think at turn one and two yesterday one of his cars sent us a message, that's all."

And Burgess backed him up: "You don't know what's been said in that (Red Bull) garage, I don't know what's been said in that garage, but the message from GT and from me is we are not here to make friends and we are going to do everything we can to win."

There are personal factors mixed up in this too. Burgess split rancorously with RBRA and Dane halfway through last season after he was poached to run the four-car Walkinshaw Racing squad - which includes the two HRT cars - by owner Ryan Walkinshaw for 2014. Dane labelled Burgess a "motor racing mercenary" at the time.

The two made some form of peace at the start of this season and Dane shifted his ire to Walkinshaw himself.

But Burgess clearly has no interest in pretending that a cordial relationship exists, especially now that he believes RBRA is reacting poorly to the improving form of HRT.

"You don't have to be an Einstein to figure out Roland isn't going to enjoy seeing HRT cars being competitive," said Burgess.

"We are building something and we are getting closer and closer and there will be a day when he (Dane) really won't be happy because we will be rubbing it with him," said Burgess.

The two HRT cars qualified on the front row of the grid for Race 20 only for fifth fastest qualifier Lowndes to knock Tander into Courtney at the entry to turn two and make side-on contact with Tander on the exit. He then hit Courtney while out-braking him at turn 11. Lowndes was penalised two grid spots and 25 Championship points for the contacts.

Tander then fought back from 11th on the grid to lead Courtney home in an HRT 1-2 in Race 21. But Burgess believed the same result could have been achieved in Race 20.

"We had a rough rub of the green in the first race when I honestly believed we could have had a one-two or a double podium at least in that first race on Saturday," Burgess said. "But we got shoved out of the way quite aggressively in that first race. In the second race we smashed it."

The comments are sure to add spice to the next Championship event, the Coates Hire Ipswich 400, on August 1-3, at QueenslandRaceway. This is RBRA's test track but HRT has traditionally performed well there.

The public spat will also focus more attention on the renewal of HRT's factory backing, which is due up this year. Triple Eight Race Engineering, which races as Red Bull, had its new deal publicly confirmed in May.

Stay In The Know
Sign up to the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship Newsletter