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WAU following McLaren rookie blueprint

ZAK Brown is confident Walkinshaw Andretti United’s rookie gamble will pay off in Supercars, just as it has done for McLaren in Formula 1.

The CEO of McLaren Racing and co-owner of WAU visited the Supercars paddock at Albert Park on Thursday to check-in with his Australian outpost.

WAU has begun the year in fine form with its star driver Chaz Mostert taking two podium finishes at the Bathurst season-opener last month.

Rookie teammate Ryan Wood, 20, has had a mixed start, showing strong qualifying speed at Bathurst but failing to finish either race due to incidents within metres of the starts.

Ryan Wood. Pic: Walkinshaw Andretti United

Wood scored his first points on Thursday at Albert Park, albeit starting 18th and finishing 19th after a clash with James Golding resulted in an early trip through the gravel at Turn 12.

Asked for his thoughts on WAU’s rookie gamble this year, Brown pointed to the success McLaren has had bringing Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri into Formula 1.

“I’m in particular comfortable with it,” Brown said. “We took a risk on Lando, we took a risk on Oscar.

“This team (WAU) has been around a long time, they know what talent looks like.

“We see with young drivers, rookie drivers that have immense talent, they show it pretty quick, so I’m very happy with our driver line-up.”

Wood was signed up to graduate to the main game halfway through a boom-and-bust debut season with the team in the 2023 Super2 Series.

WAU co-owner Ryan Walkinshaw said Wood had no problem picking himself up after the zero points haul on debut in the Supercars Championship at Bathurst.  

“He’s bounced back really, really well. He’s been working incredibly hard since Bathurst,” said Walkinshaw.

“If he had managed to keep his first quali lap he would have been the first rookie ever to get in the Top 10 Shootout on his debut.

“He’s definitely got some speed, we just need to get him a clean race, keep building his confidence and work in the right direction.

“He’s working very closely with Chaz and has been a fantastic addition to our team culturally, big, big shift there for our team on that car which is really exciting.”

“Definitely got a big future and I personally believe he’s going to be a champion one day, or at least fighting for one.”

Brown has famously made friendly wagers with his drivers in the past, offering left-field incentives for them to score big results.

That included getting a tattoo after Daniel Ricciardo’s win for McLaren at Monza in 2021 and promising Chaz Mostert a drive in an ex-Allan Moffat Chev Monza after winning the Bathurst 1000.

Asked if there’s anything in place for his drivers this year, Brown said: “Not yet. We’ll have to figure those out. One thing I’m definitely not going to do is do Chaz’s hair!”

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