Just two rounds into the 2016 V8 Supercars championship both young gun Scott McLaughlin and established superstar James Courtney have been reported as potentially replacing Pye at DJR Team Penske in 2017.
The potential move of McLaughlin to DJRTP from Garry Rogers Motorsport was reported by Mark Fogarty in Auto Action today, while earlier this week News Limited’s James Phelps was linking the Holden Racing Team star with the privateer Ford team owned by US motor racing mogul Roger Penske.
Phelps has also told Inside Supercars McLaughlin is being hunted by HRT for 2017.
Pye, in his second season at DJRTP after picking up the pieces from Marcos Ambrose’s departure, is understood to be on a one-year deal with an option.
His newly signed team-mate Fabian Coulthard is on a multi-year deal, which means if Penske wants to go driver shopping Pye is the one under the pump.
But the message from DJRTP managing director Ryan Story is Pye will be given every chance to perform and retain his seat.
“We took a big leap of faith in Scott last year after Bathurst to make the move to two cars,” he told v8supercars.com. “It was genuinely a year earlier than what we had anticipated doing it.
“So we have to give him time to repay that faith. He has a new engineer with him (Adam De Borre), he has a number of other new people with him and he has got to be given the opportunity to repay that faith and do the job that we know he is capable of doing.
“So to suggest we are actively thinking about whatever might happen in the future is a bit premature.”
McLaughlin, Courtney, HRT’s Garth Tander and Nissan’s Michael Caruso are the category’s biggest stars off-contract in 2016.
Of that lot McLaughlin, at just 22, is the tempting long term investment who has already won races for GRM.
McLaughlin, who is self-managed, admits to receiving multiple approaches from rival teams, but told v8supercars.com this week that he had not progressed discussions with any one but Garry Rogers.
“We have spoken a bit it but not too much … at the end of the day I have to do the right thing by my career.
“There will come a point where I have to make a decision and it will probably come sooner rather than later.
“I have had a couple of phone calls but at the end of the day I have pushed it away.”
McLaughlin stressed factory backing from Volvo was an important factor in potentially re-signing with GRM. There are strong indications that the Swedish brand will continue beyond 2016.
Intriguingly, in an interview at the Clipsal 500, Penske Racing president Tim Cindric acknowledged the rumours of a Penske link with McLaughlin.
“I have heard that he is the hottest prospect in the eyes of the others, so I think it is always going to come up,” Cindric said. “I’d say that’s probably a natural thing for everyone to say.
“It’s no different to last year when Fabian (Coulthard) was available and everyone brought that up. So it doesn’t surprise me.”
But he wouldn’t confirm DJRTP’s interest in McLaughlin or that an approach had been made.
“I am not going to tell you who we have spoken to and who we haven’t spoken to,” Cindric said. “I am going to tell you right now we are focused on the two guys we have. And, honestly, it really doesn’t do anyone any good from our perspective to really speculate about any of it.”
He also acknowledged the possibility of an expansion to three cars by if the situation prompted it, potentially meaning a strong performance by Pye could see the team to expand rather than have him replaced.
“We will consider anything that is right for our team,” he said. “We have to be able to run two cars properly before we run three cars. You have to have the resources to do that.
“You see that in all of our series (NASCAR and IndyCar in the USA). You just try to understand what is best overall. I would never have though we would run four IndyCars. We were a two-car team for I don’t know how long.