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HomeNewsDJR’s failed 2016 silly season play revealed

DJR’s failed 2016 silly season play revealed

WILL Davison’s return to Dick Johnson Racing in 2021 opened a second chapter for he and the storied Supercars squad, having made his full-time championship debut with them in 2006.

But it wasn’t the first time that Davison was destined to head back to the team, as revealed by a new book charting the team’s history.

‘Dick Johnson Racing: The First to 1000’ charts the team’s evolution from its phoenix-like origins amid the rubble of Johnson’s dramatic crash in the 1980 Bathurst 1000, through to becoming the first team to make 1000 championship race starts at last year’s ‘Great Race’.

Johnson, working with industry veteran John Smailes, penned each chapter reflecting on a year of his eponymous team’s existence, the 2016 chapter covering its second season as DJR Team Penske.

The team had endured a turbulent inaugural year, having slimmed to a single entry for marquee signing Marcos Ambrose, who stood down from the driving role after two events.

Scott Pye was promoted from co-driver to primary driver for the rest of the season, but the team was on the lookout for another pilot for the 2016 season.

The team ended up recruiting Fabian Coulthard from Brad Jones Racing, who slotted into an expanded two-car lineup alongside Pye.

The Kiwi had been in strong form in the first half of 2015; he’d led the championship in its early stages and contended for the title before fading in the second half of the year.

However, Coulthard wasn’t the first driver at the top of DJR Team Penske’s list.

“We wanted Will Davison,” Johnson reflects. “And Betty Klimenko, the never-say-die owner of Erebus Motorsport, was willing to release him to us.

“The blockade was the appearance in reasonable time of a deed of release.

“The Penske organisation wasn’t prepared to take Betty’s word on trust. That’s not the way they do things in the USA.”

Coulthard leads Davison during the opening race of 2016 at the Adelaide 500. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

Coulthard went on to race for DJR Team Penske for five seasons, taking the union’s first championship race win at Symmons Plains in 2017 among eight victories through that period.

Denied a DJR Team Penske move, Davison signed for Tekno Autosports for 2016 and famously won the Bathurst 1000, before enduring a dire 2017 that nearly left him without a drive for the following year.

He received a lifeline from Phil Munday’s new 23Red organisation and enjoyed a return to contending for wins once the team moved under the Tickford Racing umbrella, only to be out of a seat when Munday shut the team down amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The end of DJR’s relationship with Penske at the end of that season, with both Coulthard and Scott McLaughlin departing the squad, then paved the way for Davison’s return in 2021.

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