Walkinshaw: We will improve

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 22/10/2015
  • By Bruce Newton

While making it clear he is dissatisfied with the performance of his racing team this year, Holden Racing Team boss Ryan Walkinshaw says this is not a time to react with dramatic changes.

Instead, he has stressed his faith in the current Walkinshaw Racing management and engineering group and vowed to finish off 2015 as strongly as possible and carry that momentum into 2016.

"We had a lot of confidence going into this year and a few things didn't go our way, so we are where we are," Walkinshaw told v8supercars.com.au.

"So we have to focus on finishing this year as best we can and on making sure we go into next year with a strong plan and a strong development plan so we can make sure as of Clipsal next year we are as competitive as we want to be."

Walkinshaw Racing currently comprises the two-car factory-backed Holden Racing Team, Supercheap Auto Racing and the customer operation, CS Racing, owned by popular privateer Charlie Schwerkolt.

The four cars have won one race between them this year, with James Courtney claiming the Sunday race at the Clipsal 500. To this point in 2014, HRT had scored three wins.

This year Courtney has been out injured since being struck by debris strewn by a Navy helicopter at Sydney Motorsport Park, while the team has struggled to tune the 2015 specification Holden VF Commodore aero pack for qualifying pace.

Despite not qualifying in the top 10 since Race 9 of the championship in Perth, Tander has staged a series of fightback drives including third in the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 with Warren Luff, to climb to sixth in the championship.

Lee Holdsworth in the CS Racing Commodore has also shown improved qualifying form in recent events and finished ninth at Bathurst with import Sebastien Bourdais.

But the Supercheap entry driven by Tim Slade has continued to struggle and both driver and sponsor are expected to move on in 2016.

"There is no doubt the aero change that we had over the off season has gone completely the wrong way with how we were doing the balance of our car, which was very competitive in the second half of last year," said Walkinshaw. "That's really, really hurt us.

"We have been working really hard to try and fix that, but it's not easy. A lot of the development parts we had going into this season were based around the aero from the previous season.

"It is amazing how much effect small changes of aero can have on these cars. It has really damaged our qualifying speed but our race car speed has actually been very promising at many of the events.

"But we are still sitting third in the team's championship despite losing our leading championship driver for at least three rounds. We are less than 70 points behind Red Bull Racing and if we could finish second for the year that would be a significant achievement considering the issues we have had."

Walkinshaw hasn't been scared to make big changes at his team in the past in search of improved performance.

In May 2011 he removed Craig Wilson as WR managing director after taking over the business from his late father Tom. He appointed F1 veteran Steve Hallam in late 2011 to run the operation, but the Englishman lasted only two seasons before Walkinshaw controversially poached Adrian Burgess from fellow factory Holden team Triple Eight Race Engineering to become MD last year.

Burgess and his technical director Mathew 'Techo' Nilsson have instituted a massive development program at WR, but not been able to move the needle on results.

But Walkinshaw is adamant the team has the people and the resources to get on to a completely competitive footing with T8 and 2016's dominant performer, Prodrive Racing Australia.

"We have a good team at the moment, we have a few things that haven't gone our way. But there are a lot of things that have gone on behind the scenes that have been really, really productive and we are happy with where we are as a group.

"You never say you can't do better, and you always re-evaluate the personnel and everything else in the organisation, but we are 100 per cent committed to what we are doing and going into next season with the current structure. Absolutely."

Walkinshaw is also conscious that the arrival of the new Gen2 regulations in 2017 and the end of Holden's local manufacturing capability the same year is a key moment in the company's racing history.

He is clear he wants WR to retain its role as a factory Holden team.

"That's what we are and what we aim to continue to be."

Walkinshaw Racing's current deal with Holden expires at the end of 2016.

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