IT’S confirmed: Walkinshaw Andretti United will cross the floor for the start of Supercars’ Gen3 era, partnering with Ford Performance to campaign Mustangs from the start of the 2023 season.
The ‘blue oval’s heavy hitters joined WAU bosses in making the announcement on Friday, with Ford Australia CEO Andrew Birkic joined by Ford Performance’s global director of motorsport Mark Rushbrook and Australian-born Trevor Worthington, now Ford’s vice-president of internal combustion engine programs.
Even global Ford president and CEO Jim Farley contributed a recorded message to the video stream and joined Rushbrook, Worthington and WAU co-owners Ryan Walkinshaw and Michael Andretti for photos to mark the announcement.
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“For over three decades we have gone head-to-head in competition with Ford, but joining forces with them for Gen3 was the clear direction forward,” Walkinshaw said.
“Walkinshaw Andretti United is a business with three international branches, and all share a history with Ford.
“To have manufacturer support once again is essential for our race team and the goals we have, and we thank Ford for their trust in us.”
The move means Ford will be represented by at least 11 cars on the 2023 Repco Supercars Championship grid, with Chaz Mostert and Nick Percat joining fellow Mustang teams Dick Johnson Racing, Tickford Racing, Grove Racing and the Blanchard Racing Team.
“We’re here to win. We’re looking to work with the best organisations, and the best people to get the Blue Oval to the front of the pack, to put on the best show for our fans,” Birkic said.
Listen to WAU’s Ryan Walkinshaw and Bruce Stewart talk about the announcement on Repco Supercars Weekly!
“In Walkinshaw Andretti United we see an organisation with the same core values and beliefs, a passion for the sport and that real drive to win.”
“We’re excited to welcome our former rivals into the family, and look forward to many years of success in conjunction with WAU.”
The deal will bring to an end a 33-year period where the team, through different iterations, raced and won with Holden machinery.
Founded in 1990, the Holden Racing Team was the racing arm of Tom Walkinshaw Racing’s successful road car joint venture with Holden, Holden Special Vehicles.
A first-up Bathurst 1000 victory belied the team’s early struggles to find its feet, finally doing so in the mid-1990s.
Craig Lowndes’ triple-crown of championship, Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000 victories in 1996 marked the start of a seven-year period of near-total dominance by the team, which swept to race wins and titles with Peter Brock, Greg Murphy, Mark Skaife and Jason Bright aboard.
HRT remained one of Supercars’ leading squads through to 2016, when Holden elected to end its factory support in favour of focusing its backing on Triple Eight Race Engineering.
Rebranded as Walkinshaw Racing for a season, the team entered a new era in 2018 with IndyCar racer and team owner Andretti and McLaren F1 chief Zak Brown buying into the squad to form Walkinshaw Andretti United.
The team has made significant strides towards becoming a regular threat for race wins in recent seasons, capped by Chaz Mostert and Lee Holdsworth’s emphatic victory in last year’s Repco Bathurst 1000.
WAU continued to race Holden Commodores despite the loss of support from Holden, which itself was shuttered by General Motors at the close of 2020.
While many teams declared their Gen3 allegiances early, WAU were notably cagey on just which manufacturer they would represent in the 2023 season.
That reticence extended to Mostert not taking part in any of the Gen3 testing program in either the Chevrolet Camaro or Ford Mustang prototypes.
The announcement now clears the way for Mostert and Percat to join the program, with both drivers expected to test the Gen3 Mustang prototype in the near future.
“I’ve had a long and successful relationship with Ford in the past, so it’s really exciting to be re-joining the blue oval in 2023 and beyond,” Mostert said.
“It will be a bit of a homecoming to step back into a Mustang that’s for sure. I’m looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the Gen3 prototype soon.”
The manufacturer switch represents a significant change for Percat, who has only raced Holden products throughout his entire Supercars career and whose father, grandfather and great grandfather all worked for Holden.
“I’m really excited about Gen3 and racing a Ford,” Percat said.
“It will feel different to see the Ford badge on the front of our cars, but fantastic to have manufacturer support.
“With Holden finishing up in Supercars at the end of this year, we will be doing everything possible to end on a high, before we turn our attention to the next chapter.”