Former Holden Racing team today made a shock jump through the manufacturers gap, confirming that it will perform a pair of Mustangs in the Supercar next season.
Given the Walkinshaw brand’s long association with Holden, including nearly two decades as part of Holden’s factory team, desertion is one of the most significant in Supercar history.
It also won’t go unnoticed when fans ’early reaction to the news was a clear indication that, not surprisingly, some staunch Holden / GM fans won’t follow the team to the Blue Aval.
The destruction of fans is likely to be much greater than when the team lost its factory deal with Holden of Triple Eight, as WAU was still seen as dyed in Holden’s wool team, while the T8 had a story with Ford.
Speaking during today’s announcement, co-owner Ryan Walkinshaw acknowledged that Ford’s move would not be popular with the team’s fans.
However, he said the attractiveness of the factory deal with Ford made desertion worthwhile, even with the support of supporters.
“You wouldn’t want it to be any different if it weren’t for this hobby, what we’re doing wouldn’t mean anything, would it?” – he said, answering a question about the negative reaction of some fans.
“So you’re waiting for hot answers, something just as important a decision that we had to make and we were waiting for it, but honestly, the answer was much better than we thought.
“You’ll always have a small minority of people who are incredibly vocal, and admittedly that’s a shock to most of the Australian automotive community.
“If you really thought about it a year ago, we would probably be one of the teams that you thought might be the least likely to make the transition like we just did.
“So I fully appreciate and understand well why many fans find it shocking and why fans may find it frustrating or even angry at it.
“But I think the vast majority of our fans follow our team to who we are, they follow our values, they follow our drivers, they follow the way we do business, and they share the same passion for wanting to go and win race.
“This is what we are really here for, we are not here to be second or third.
“If you look at Supercars over the last 10 years, I think there’s only one championship winner who wasn’t a factory team, which is a good indication of the importance of supporting the factory if you want to go and win the championship.
Nick Perkat, Wokinshaw Andretti United, Holden Commodore WB
Photo: Edge Photographics
“It is really very important for our ambitions. I think the vast majority of people will understand why we made that decision.
“It’s not a fact that we quarreled with GM or didn’t have a great working relationship with GM or anything like that, we wanted to make a change, we wanted to be a factory team and we wanted to have a partnership where we were wanted and shared the same ambitions and goals that we are. ”
What is not entirely clear is the amount of factory support that WAU will receive from Ford. However, it seems the support will extend to six Ford teams, not, for example, to Dick Johnson Racing and WAU.
A separate report is expected later.
“In 2023, we will have a number of teams supported by the plant,” said Andrew Birkic, President and CEO of Ford Australia.
“More than two. We’re not adding more teams, in terms of Mustangs.”
The WAU-Ford agreement has raised questions about whether the new relationship can go beyond the racetrack and into the automotive world.
The Walkinshaw Group is actively involved in the design and engineering of road vehicles and is currently collaborating with companies such as GM and Volkswagen.
However, Ford Australia currently says it is not considering tying road cars.
“This is an obvious question. The answer is individual companies,” said Birkic.
“So today we’re talking about motorsport, and there are no discussions or announcements from the other side of the business.”
Walkinshaw did not rule out cooperation in the field of automotive production, and reiterated that today’s announcement concerns only racing.
“If you ask me if there is an opportunity to expand my car business with new customers, I think that’s a pretty obvious answer. Of course,” he said.
“Ford has great products and we know that at the moment we are a leading business in design, engineering and manufacturing in Australia. So we can add more value there.
“But in the end, we didn’t make that decision. It’s very important to make it clear that WAU is a partnership with me, Michael Andretti and Zach Brown. The only connection between that and my car group is me.
“What we do on the race track is not related to what we do off the track in the car part. This relationship and the debate we are having today is purely motorsport.”