Walkinshaw Andretti United will field a Ford Mustang when the Supercars Gen3 era begins, Speedcafe.com understands.
The reason is, until the end of 2016, the official manufacturer of the Holden Racing Team had been in a relationship with alternative manufacturers for some time.
Director Ryan Walkinshaw has previously spoken about wanting to bring his own Camaro and while the Supercars Gen2 chassis proved to be too big of a hindrance at the time, chatter about a new brand almost never went away.
Walkinshaw took note in 2020 by saying they were in talks with “several” would-be manufacturers, although rumors late last year about a Jaguar were deemed far off the mark.
However, WAU chose not to install drivers for the lavish Gen3 launch in the pit garage at the Repco Bathurst 1000 last December, where Jaguar rumors resurfaced.
Erebus Motorsport also had no representation, despite being known to have conflicting appointments, whereas WAU didn’t want to be seen supporting Chevrolet at the time because it wasn’t committed to any of the brands on display at the time.
Now, Speedcafe.com understands that WAU was indeed set to take down the Mustang since the start of the Gen3 era.
According to sources, the talk at the Wanneroo paddock at Perth SuperNight last weekend was that the deal was ‘done’, and an announcement had been anticipated by some during the event, although it never happened.
It is believed that the announcement will now take place at some point this week, although the actual deal has been rumored for a few weeks now.
The timing matches with Ryan Walkinshaw’s comments to Speedcafe.com that the team is targeting a decision on a Gen3 manufacturer by mid-year.
Speedcafe.com has also heard suggestions that Walkinshaw Racing and/or WAU (the former supplying certain goods/services to the latter) have several Coyote engines available for analysis.
The Coyotes are the powerhouses the Ford team will use in the Gen3 era and while Herrod Performance Engines will supply the Supercars-spec engines, having access to some will probably be a useful fact-finding exercise for the WR/WAU.
WAU’s switch to Ford would be a tremendous development in the context of the team’s history in the (V8) Supercars Championship/Australian Touring Car Championship, and the national automotive industry more broadly.
While Tom Walkinshaw Racing Jaguar finished a one-two in the 1985 Bathurst 1000, the team became a powerhouse as the Holden Racing Team in the 1990s.
His ‘Red Barron’ Komodo, and his ‘lion and helmet’ logo, achieved iconic status when Craig Lowndes and Mark Skaife collectively claimed five consecutive championship titles, from 1998 to 2002.
For a time, Skaife won the Bathurst 1000 and the Australian Touring Car Championship for the second year in a row, taking each of the four awards in a chassis that became known as the ‘Golden Boy’.
The on-track success was good for the brand, not only Holden, but also the Holden Special Vehicles produced by the Walkinshaw group.
In fact, the team even went by the name ‘HSV Racing’ in a season between last as HRT and first as WAU, and when Holden’s factory squad effectively became a four-car force, the Kelly family’s sister outfit passed. nicknamed the ‘HSV Dealer Team’ for several years.
It is history that also shows the merits of the Mustang Supercars program for the Walkinshaw Automotive Group.
A partnership with Ford could include or lead to road car work, upgrading some Blue Oval products for sale in showrooms.
Coincidentally, WAG has modified the Amarok for sale through Volkswagen as a ‘W-Series’ variant of the German utility brand, and the next generation of the Amarok will be the badge-engineered Ford Ranger, development of which is being led by Ford. Australian design team based in Melbourne.
On the grid, replacing the WAU Commodores with Mustangs would restore some degree of balance in the numerical split between Holdens/Chevrolets and Fords.
Currently, the four incumbent Ford teams have collectively fielded nine Mustangs against 16 ZB Commodores, with the 26th charter currently on the shelf.
Where the WAU crossover of brand differences sits in defection history is up for debate, but arguably in conversations with Triple Eight Race Engineering from Ford to Holden in 2010, and Craig Lowndes (along with Gibson Motorsport) jumped the other way in 2001.
Ironically, it was Triple Eight that replaced Walkinshaw as the Holden Racing Team, and remains a General Motors homologation team, now and into the Gen3 era.
Now, however, is the latest Bathurst 1000 winner to switch camps, to fly the Ford flag at Gen3.
Ford Performance issued a media call for “important announcements … Supercars” this Friday.
Ford and Walkinshaw Andretti United declined to comment when approached by Speedcafe.com.