WATCH: WHEN DAVISON LED THE 2019 FIELD AT THE BEND
Confirmation came this afternoon that 23Red Racing will exit the category following major backer Milwaukee Tool Australia’s withdrawal due to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
Speculation suggests that has in turn left Will Davison on the sidelines for Supercars’ return to racing – a cruel twist for the Gold Coaster.
There is no doubting the recent period has been a torrid time for businesses and the fact of the matter is business is business; tough decisions have to be made.
Similarly, Supercars is a high-cost sport and, at the end of the day, a business.
Nonetheless, the timing is simply dreadful for Davison.
An excellent talent from a revered motorsport family, Davison had finally got himself back in a position to contend for race wins and maybe even challenge for the championship.
The 37-year-old’s pace and consistency aboard the Tickford-run 23Red Racing Mustang was underlined by him placing inside the top six of every test, practice, qualifying and race session to date in 2020.
After all, we’re talking about a bloke who has on five occasions finished inside the championship’s top five and was Jamie Whincup’s chief title rival in 2009.
But for many years, it has been a case of right place, wrong time for Davison – somewhat reminiscent of Fernando Alonso in Formula 1.
At 25, Alonso had two titles to his name and seemingly had the world at his feet after snapping Michael Schumacher’s reign atop the sport.
A third title would never come, with Alonso switching between McLaren, Renault and Ferrari without ever nailing the timing of those stints.
Having tested a Minardi F1 car in 2004 – the team with which Alonso debuted in ‘01 – Davison established himself at Dick Johnson Racing from 2006-08 before departing for the Holden Racing Team in 2009.
Davison was runner-up that year, but James Courtney won the series at DJR the following season.
He joined Ford Performance Racing in 2011 and spent three years racing up the front.
The team broke through for a championship in ’15 with Mark Winterbottom, while Davison was busy wringing every last bit of performance out of a struggling Erebus Mercedes.
Then came another sliding doors moment as Davison got out of his lucrative Erebus deal to replace Shane van Gisbergen at Tekno in ’16.
Tekno had been a frontrunner for years and Davison won two races that year, including a fairytale Bathurst 1000 triumph, but things quickly went backwards for the single-car outfit from there and Davison was nearly left without a drive for 2018.
At the same time, Erebus were building considerable momentum thanks to their move to Melbourne and to running Holdens.
Davison got a lifeline with Phil Munday’s 23Red Racing for ’18 and that partnership had gone from strength to strength ever since.
Moving under the Tickford Racing banner last season brought a spike in competitiveness, and the early stages of this year looked to signal another leap forward.
But now, just as things were falling into place at last, it’s over. Abruptly.
This is a two-time Bathurst winner; a driver who has achieved the rare feat of beating Garth Tander and Mark Winterbottom as teammates; someone who feels they are still very much at the top of their game.
A handful of endurance co-drives remain available, perhaps offering a home for part of the rest of the 2020 season.
One silver lining from the downfall of 23Red is it could open the door for Courtney to return to the sport, per mounting speculation.
But for now, this is about the ever-analytical driver known simply as ‘Wilbur’ or ‘Davo’. Let’s hope it’s not the last we’ve seen of him in a full-time seat.