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Why Story is exactly what DJR needs

After a painful 2023 season, Dick Johnson Racing needed a fix and has found just that by going back to the future.

The most famous and historic team in Australian motorsport was a shadow of its former self this year, despite having excellent resources, personnel, partners and support.

It started the Gen3 era woefully at the Newcastle 500.

It was largely responsible for the misstep which was meant to be a pre-Townsville Ford parity improvement.

And even after the Mustang got a significant post-Bathurst aero upgrade, DJR was nowhere to be seen while Tickford Racing and Grove Racing shone in the final couple of rounds.

The truth is, parity woes aside, DJR has no excuse to be anything but a frontrunner.

It certainly is not short on cash nor business acumen, thanks to majority shareholder Brett Ralph.

Anton De Pasquale with DJR majority owner Brett Ralph. Pic: Nathan Wong

David Noble has brought a welcome level of expertise as CEO, meshing the team’s commercial and performance facets.

Ben Croke is a respected on-the-ground leader, and even without Ludo Lacroix going forward, DJR’s engineering ranks are full of talented and experienced heads from Perry Kapper to Mark Fenning to Richard Harris.

Will Davison and Anton De Pasquale are both proven race winners when given the machinery to do the job.

The one thing missing? A mastermind racing enthusiast bringing everything together.

Provided his health does not hold him back, Story is the ultimate solution.

He has already once before saved DJR from the brink – not that this time it’s quite that bleak – and is forever described with glowing praise from Dick Johnson himself.

“Ryan is like a son to me and to welcome him back into this role means the world to all of us,” was in fact how Johnson spoke upon today’s restructuring being announced.

Story is ultra-clever and, above all, he is up there with Roland Dane as the best leaders with the nous to get what his team needs that Australian motorsport has ever seen.

Ryan Story. Pic: Ross Gibb

Story knows how to play the game – and how to win at it.

Lacroix is unquestionably a loss, given his vast Supercars success at DJR and Triple Eight before that, but it mightn’t be the disaster that some figure.

There was a lingering feeling that he never quite gelled with De Pasquale the way he did with Scott McLaughlin, and he had voluntarily lightened his workload within the four walls at Stapylton in recent times.

A change mightn’t be a bad thing for De Pasquale, although it sure will be intriguing where exactly Lacroix pops up next – be it in Australia or back in his native France.

DJR’s restructuring comes at a time when it is also taking on the Ford control engine program, allowing Rob Herrod to refocus on the performance car side of his business.

What’s being seen here are the first signs that Ralph, a likeable but cutthroat businessman, will not stand for mediocrity.

With parity hopefully sorted and Triple Eight no longer blessed with all-conquering champions behind the wheel (i.e. Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup) – not that Broc Feeney and Will Brown are a duo to be scoffed at – 2024 is wide open for the taking.

In order to seize the opportunity, DJR must reclaim its mantle of being the top Ford team; no easy feat at a time when Grove is looking more and more like Supercars’ next powerhouse, Tickford has streamlined to two cars, and WAU is hungry after a winless 2023.

Oh, and Davison and De Pasquale are both believed to be off-contract at the end of ’24, which only heightens just how big a year is in store for the Shell V-Power squad. 

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