The owner of the Holden Racing Team, Ryan Walkinshaw, is confident a new sponsorship deal with Holden will "be announced shortly" and says the rebuild of the factory squad under Adrian Burgess is ahead of schedule.
Walkinshaw has been in Australia since mid-June attending to his Australian business interests including the four-car Walkinshaw Racing V8 Supercars program. He was at the SKYCITY Triple Crown Darwin 400 and will stay for the weekend's Castrol Townsville 500 - Driven by TAFE Queensland.
"We have got a great relationship with Holden, we would like it to continue and we are very confident it will do," Walkinshaw told v8supercars.com.au.
Both factory-backed Holden squads - Triple Eight Race Engineering and HRT - have been due up for contract renewal this year. Triple Eight, which campaigns under the Red Bull Racing Australia banner, had its new deal - understood to be for two years - confirmed in May.
But an announcement on HRT's future arrangements with Holden wasn't made then and still hasn't been, causing speculation in pitlane. However, a new two year deal is expected.
Walkinshaw said the Triple Eight announcement was made quickly at least in part because of the unfriendly relations between himself and team owner Roland Dane.
"I am sure Roland wanted to announce his (deal) as soon as he could, because I am not on Roland's Christmas card list and he knows how it would look to us," said Walkinshaw. "That's the way it goes."
Triple Eight has been the dominant performer in V8 Supercars, with Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes running one-two in the drivers' Championship for the last three years. It has also won the last three teams' Championships.
HRT, by contrast, has been enduring a rebuild in recent seasons which hit top gear this year with Walkinshaw poaching Triple Eight team manager Adrian Burgess to be his squad's managing director.
Holden made it clear it expected improved performances from HRT in 2014 and James Courtney has responded with consistent rostrum pace in his Commodore VF. Teammate Garth Tander emerged from a horror run with top 10 results in Darwin.
"We are getting there," Walkinshaw said. "There is still a lot of work to do, but it is certainly significantly better than this time last year.
"To have a car that is capable of winning every single round like Triple Eight cars - or dare I say it, Scotty McLaughlin's Volvo - not yet. But we have had significant improvements in most areas of the car and we have some big, big improvements to come in the coming months to make sure our car is as good as it can be before the enduros."
Walkinshaw said he was also pleased with the performance of the 'black' garage comprising Tim Slade's Supercheap Auto Racing Commodore and the HHA-backed entry of rookie Nick Percat.
"Hopefully we have been able to get rid of the old tagline that Walkinshaw doesn't care about its third and fourth cars," he said. "I think Adrian has shown that we are working very hard to make it a full four car team, and I think our performance is definitely improving."
Walkinshaw said the mammoth engineering upgrade program initiated by Burgess and his technical director Mathew Nilsson were now ahead of schedule after some early delays.
"The list of improvements we wanted to make to the car that Mat and Adrian put together was terrifying," Walkinshaw admitted.
"Our biggest issue we had was a lack of designers. We had plenty of engineers, but actually having enough people to draw the parts and getting them manufactured has been our biggest hurdle at the moment.
"We have had to hire in a couple more designers to try and fast track our process and that has worked. We are definitely ahead of schedule, particularly on our engine ... we were particularly disappointed with where we felt our engine was when we rolled out at Clipsal, even though we won.
"Now we are pretty confident we are there or there-abouts with the Triple Eight engines."