Walkinshaw Racing has revealed its driver lineup for 2017, with Scott Pye set join current Holden Racing Team driver James Courtney.
The news that Courtney has reconfirmed with Walkinshaw Racing for a further three years comes as a surprise after months of speculation that he would be seeking employment elsewhere in 2017 – most likely with a return to the Japanese GT series.
But after six years with the Holden Racing Team, Courtney says he is more determined than ever to achieve championship success with the team.
“Everyone in the team, from engineering staff to management and commercial, have all put a ridiculous amount of effort into preparing my car and giving me the opportunity to win races,” Courtney said.
“I’ve also put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this team and would hate it if I walked away from here and someone else rolled in and started getting all the success we have worked so hard for.
“I certainly believe it’s possible to win another championship here. If I didn’t think that, then I wouldn’t still be here – I’m as loyal, committed and enthusiastic about the future of the team as I have ever been.”
Courtney came to the team in 2011 as the reigning V8 Supercars champion. Having won the title with the then-struggling Dick Johnson Racing, Courtney arrived at the flagship Holden team with high hopes of achieving sustained success.
Since then, however, the Holden Racing Team has struggled, with Courtney claiming no better than sixth place in the championship over the last five years. As they headed to Bathurst for the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 on October 9, Courtney was 11th in the points standings.
Should Courtney go on to achieve that elusive second championship title, it will be under an all-new Walkinshaw Racing banner. Earlier this year Holden announced its withdrawal of support to the team, and that the iconic Holden Racing Team name would in future be attached to the rival Triple Eight Race Engineering outfit. Holden’s decision marks the end of a 26-year arrangement of Walkinshaw Racing (and Tom Walkinshaw Racing before it) fielding Holden's official factory race team.
“There will be many changes and exciting announcements for the team in the coming months and the first key element was securing competitive drivers,” team owner Ryan Walkinshaw said.
“James has been with the team for many years, is a proven champion, and capable of many more race and championship wins.
“James was offered substantial deals from other teams down pit lane and abroad, and we are thrilled that he decided to stay with us and be part of our exciting future.”
The announcement of the Courtney/Pye 2017 driver combo is confirmation that Garth Tander’s career with Walkinshaw Racing has ended – after a mammoth 12 years. But while Tander’s future plans are yet to be announced, he revealed during the Sandown 500 weekend that he does have a deal locked in place for 2017.
For Pye, the Walkinshaw contract is potentially a career-saving boost. He had been otherwise out of a drive for 2017, with DJR Team Penske having announced recently that Pye would be replaced next year by Scott McLaughlin.
Importantly, the multi-year contract will give Pye the continuity he hasn't been able to enjoy in his three seasons so far in Supercars.
While the team’s on-track results in recent years have fallen below expectations, Garth Tander and co-driver Warren Luff saw off all their challengers to claim a surprise win the Sandown 500, the traditional pre-Bathurst warmup enduro.
So impressive was the Holden Racing Team in the opening round of the PIRTEK Enduro Cup that it now goes to Bathurst as one of the favourites.