THE once mighty Holden Racing Team’s fizzle during the first half of the 2010s can be attributed to many factors, but a central figure has highlighted one in particular.
The Clayton empire long remained a powerhouse even after its run of five successive Supercars titles (1998-2002) ended, but 2009 remains its last teams’ (or drivers’) championship.
After a rocky 2010 campaign, Will Davison departed and in came reigning champion James Courtney, with his respected race engineer Scott Sinclair also making the switch from Dick Johnson Racing.
Courtney won in just his second race for HRT, at the 2011 Abu Dhabi season-opener, but that result proved something of a false dawn.
Reflecting via the V8 Sleuth Podcast powered by Bowden’s Own, Sinclair expressed frustration at how things played out with the team he idolised as a child.
Sinclair pointed to a combination of reasons as to why it didn’t work out, one of which was a sense of being stuck in the past.
“Some days I just felt like ripping all of the posters off of the walls and just going, ‘guys, we’re wobbling around at the back here’,” he told host Aaron Noonan.
“Like we have got (Garth) Tander and Courtney, we have got Mobil, we have got the Lion. It’s the Holden Racing Team. We have got to sort this shit out.
“It was a tough period.”
The key downfall Sinclair circled, however, was a lack of direction and leadership on the engineering front.
“In my time there, one of the things was lack of engineering leadership,” he said.
“Engineers were off the chain, so we could do whatever we wanted – and that was bad.”
Sinclair elaborated how that proved problematic in terms of sticking to a clear development path.
“There wasn’t things you could buy off the shelf to make the cars quicker, it was just design and manufacturing,” he continued.
“Uprights, like we had thousands of uprights.
“We were just in a hole and trying to get out of it and couldn’t, just through overcomplicating it and trying too hard, really.
“The pressure of knowing that both drivers are race winners if the car is good, the pressure of the history, and a lack of someone just saying ‘guys, just keep it simple’. We were trying too hard.
“At the time you obviously don’t realise this… but it was a combination of things.
“Interestingly, then Adrian (Burgess) came, who’d had a huge amount of success at DJR and they really still weren’t able to crack it even through his time, so it would be a fascinating conversation to have with him to understand in more depth.”
Holden eventually moved the HRT moniker to Triple Eight at the end of 2016, while the rebranded Walkinshaw Andretti United ultimately aligned with Ford for the Gen3 era.
Sinclair spent six years (2014-19) as Kelly Racing’s team manager before enjoying a stint on the Supercars Commission and then stepping away from motorsport altogether.