Brad Jones Racing will be a V8 Supercars race and championship contender next year despite the confirmed departure of star driver Fabian Coulthard, insists team co-owner Brad Jones.
While Coulthard's management only officially informed Jones of the decision today, he revealed he had been convinced for months the Kiwi was departing at the end of this season and had been working for some time to ensure a quality replacement would drive the #14 Freightliner Holden Commodore.
"I think we have a really good opportunity with the blokes we are talking to going forward and I have no doubt we will be in a positon to win races next year," Jones declared to v8supercars.com.au.
"I have no doubt, I am happy.
"I think with the people that we are looking at we will be in the position to fight for race wins and I am intending to be vying for the championship next year with car 14."
Current 'The Bottle-O' Ford Falcon FG X driver David Reynolds has been consistently nominated as the favourite for the drive with Brad Jones Racing, especially as the team is based in his hometown of Albury.
But others also in the mix could include James Moffat, Tim Slade, Scott Pye and development series young gun Cameron Waters.
"I do not have a driver signed up for that car, but I am very happy with the prospects," said Jones, who co-owns the team with brother Kim. "I think we will be fine."
Coulthard's decision to move on most likely aids veteran Jason Bright's chances of driving the #8 Team BOC Commodore again in 2016, while Dunlop Series graduate Dale Wood is also working to stay with the team.
Jones would not comment on the future of either of these drivers.
But he did make clear how keen he had been to keep Coulthard at BJR, making a renewal offer to the 33-year old as far back as last December.
But Coulthard's unwillingness to sign on the dotted line and constant linkage with a drive at DJR Team Penske had helped convinced Jones that he was on the move for 2016.
"The truth is I knew months ago he wasn't going to be with us, so it's not news to me," Jones said.
"If that sounds bitter, it's not meant to.
"I was aware of it months ago, even though it was unsaid, I was aware months ago he wasn't going to be part of the team.
"So we are actively sorting out who is going to be driving the car."
The team has suffered a double blow with Coulthard's highly-rated engineer Phil Keed also confirmed to be departing BJR.
Keed is headed to DJR Team Penske, where he is expected to be joined by Coulthard in a single car operation.
Closing in on four years at BJR, Coulthard has delivered five race wins and the Bathurst qualifying lap record to the team. He finished 11th in the championship in his first season at BJR, sixth in 2013, eighth last year and runs fifth this year, 521 points behind championship leader Mark Winterbottom.
"He has done a good job for us, but we have done a good job for him as well," referencing the fact Coulthard was winless and without the same drive for no more than two years before he joined BJR.
Keed is a veteran of global motorsport, working in the world rally championship for Subaru before returning home to join Jason Bright at Team Brock in V8 Supercars in 2003. He went on to FPR and BJR, working with Bright in both teams.
However, he swapped to Coulthard early in the 2012 season and the two struck up a feisty yet fruitful partnership.
Jones is confident the team will be able to still function professionally for the rest of the season despite Coulthard and Keed's impending moves, starting with the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, which BJR has never won.
"We have got obligations to sponsors and we are looking for success and I don't think Fabian has any problem focussing and I certainly don't, so our intention is to go to every race and try and win it.
Jones also predicted the potential issues inflicted by Keed's departure would be countered by the team's more robust 2015 engineering structure, which has seen Bright's former engineer Andrew Edwards move into the role of chief engineer.
"It's disappointing but I think we have a really good group of people here and I think in hindsight moving Andrew Edwards in to oversee the department was a really good move.
"I think we will miss Phil, but I think we have a lot of really clever people here and I don't think it will affect our performance."