BMW spells end for iconic Holden Racing Team
THE return of the BMW to Supercars is set to kill off one of Australia's most famous sporting partnerships after 29 years.
Walkinshaw Andretti United, formerly known as the Holden Racing Team, has confirmed the team is planning to bin the Commodore as part of a plan to once again become a V8 powerhouse.
The Sunday Telegraph has revealed WAU is in negotiations to put a BMW on the grid.
Co-owner Ryan Walkinshaw said his new-look team was negotiating to replace the Commodore, in a move that would end the partnership that made Mark Skaife and Craig Lowndes legends.
"Myself, Michael (Andretti) and Zac (Brown) have made it clear that our long-term strategy is to return it to being a factory-backed operation,'' Walkinshaw said.
"We don't see that happening with Holden, at least in the short term, due to the partnership they have with Triple Eight Racing.
"So we are exploring other manufacturer options for Supercars Gen 3 regulations.''
Although he is committed to keeping the Commodore for at least another season, the declaration from Walkinshaw will end the partnership that began in 1987 when Tom Walkinshaw formed Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) and then the Holden Racing Team (HRT).
Holden gave HSV an exclusive licence to produce a high-powered, road-going version of the Commodore.
On the track, HRT won six drivers' championships and seven Bathurst 1000s with V8 legends such as Skaife and Lowndes behind the wheel. Peter Brock also drove for HRT from 1994 until 1997.
With HSV now licensed to produced right-hand drive Camaros exclusively for the Australian market, WAU's famous relationship with Holden was expected to live on through General Motors - Holden's parent company and Camaro producer.
But Walkinshaw has all but ruled out putting a Camaro on the grid as he looks for full manufacturer support from companies, including BMW.
"We have had initial conversations with several manufacturers,'' Walkinshaw said.
"It is all looking positive but at this stage would be unlikely for 2021. We are looking at 2022 when Gen 3 regulations begin.We are looking at that as our ultimate deadline.
"That will give us the time to get the new manufacturer comfortable with our proposal and also give us a strong indication of what the Gen 3 regulations will consist of.''
Supercars is set to become just a two-make series next year, with Kelly Racing dumping the Nissan Altima for a Ford Mustang after the Japanese company rocked the sport by ending a sponsorship deal.
WAU is determined to return the sport to a three-make category and has been in negotiations with three separate car manufacturers since abandoning its dream to race a Chevrolet Camaro because of a platform size issue.
BMW has emerged as the frontrunner and WAU co-owner Michael Andretti is using his international star power to tempt the German powerhouse into a deal to race in Australia.
The son of Mario Andretti, America's most successful Formula One driver, Michael already has a BMW deal in the FIA Formula E. His Andretti Motorsport is fully funded by the German manufacturer.
The son of Mario Andretti - America's most successful Formula One driver - Michael already has a BMW deal in the FIA Formula E with his team, Andretti Motorsport, fully funded by the German manufacturer.
Promising to bring a new manufacturer to Supercars when he bought a part ownership of Walkinshaw Racing in 2017, Andretti has instigated the WAU talks with his close contacts at BMW.
WAU's BMW bid received another boost last week when it signed part-time BMW driver Chaz Mostert to a multi-year deal.
Like Andretti, Mostert has close ties to BMW, having spent the past two years racing as an international BMW GT driver between Supercars events.
Mostert has raced for BMW in a series of major events including the USA's IMSA Sportscar Series, Europe's Blancpain Series and the Asian Le Mans Series.
Knocking back interest from several V8 teams to become WAU's prize recruit, Mostert has also strapped down for BMW in the Daytona 24-Hour and Bathurst 12-Hour.
The Sunday Telegraph has been told WAU has been discussing engine and model options with BMW. The two-door BMW M4 and the four-door M3 have both been talked about as potential rivals for the Commodore and Mustang.
It is unclear whether BMW would use a V6 engine or purpose-built a V8 engine especially for the Australian category.
"That is something that is being talked about right now,'' a WAU insider said.
"As is the model that would be used. It could be either an M3 or an M4. Both of those models would fit on the current generation Supercars chassis.''
Live stream the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship on KAYO SPORTS. Every practice, qualifying & race Live & On-Demand in HD. Get your 14 day free trial >