Red Bull Holden Racing Team owner Roland Dane has admitted the timing of Holden’s axing came as a “surprise” ahead of this weekend’s Supercars season-opener in Adelaide.
Australian motoring was rocked on Monday after it was announced General Motors would retire the iconic Holden brand from Australia and New Zealand at the end of the 2020.
The announcement immediately raised questions over Holden’s future in Supercars, where Dane’s Triple Eight Race Engineering squad has a factory contract through to 2021.
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The new deal was only signed midway through last year, but December’s announcement to retire the Commodore nameplate was just an early sign the wheels were in motion at GM.
Asked at the BP Ultimate SuperTest at The Bend Motorsport Park on Tuesday whether the Commodore could continue in Supercars after Holden’s retirement, Dane replied: “Conceivably, because the homologation as it were from Supercars will be valid for several more years.
“If you remember with the Falcon, even when they stopped the production of the car [in 2016] and its availability to the public, it carried on racing for several years.
“The ongoing situation at the moment, I’m meeting with GM this week and we’ll discuss what happens. Until then, there’s nothing more to be said, really.”
Dane’s team has run under the ‘Holden Racing Team’ banner since 2017 and is Holden’s homologation outfit in Supercars, having played a recent role in assisting with an aerodynamic rethink of the 2020 ZB Commodore versus the Ford Mustang, which was introduced in Supercars last season.
“The timing of this was definitely a surprise,” he said.
“Obviously, as someone who’s very aware of the motoring industry on a larger platform on a world basis, the lack of right-hand drives [in Australia] going ahead was a concern. Some new models were in the pipeline, which gave us reassurance.
“It is what it is. We’re a very small market in Australia, competing for attention against much bigger markets. The decisions that affect the car industry on a wider basis are not made in Australia, they’re made in Japan or Detroit or Germany.”
Having competed in Supercars since 2002 when he took over Briggs Motor Sport, Dane – who has overseen eight drivers’ titles, nine teams’ titles and seven Bathurst 1000 wins – understood the primary product in Supercars remains the quality of competition, even if brand support has waned in recent years.
Dane said his drivers, former series champions Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen, are “aware” of the situation and remained confident his race team – like the rivals up and down pit lane – will “do our work properly” ahead of the new season.
Regardless, Dane – who will meet with GM this week – suggested that the sport and its fans must adapt, much like the car industry has and continues to.
“If we, collectively as a category, do our homework properly, we can still provide the excitement and the show that people have come to expect over many years,” he said.
“Unfortunately, one of the issues is that an awful lot of people who have been barracking for the Holden brand over the last ten years or so haven’t actually been buying the product for whatever reason.
“It’s a fact of life that a lot of people have been turning up to watch the races and not the brand. It’s something we’re very aware of.
“Times change, and we’ve got to change with them.”