The Dick Johnson Racing team has been plunged into another financial crisis that could force it to close its doors completely, just a month out from the season-opening Clipsal 500 event.
The championship’s oldest team has lost all of its major sponsors and been forced to downsize from four to two cars during the off-season, while several key investors have also bailed from the Queensland-based team.
The situation is reportedly so bad that the team won’t have enough funding to participate in the compulsory pre-season test in two weeks’ time, in addition to being able to participate in the opening pair of races around the streets of Adelaide on the first weekend of March.
The outfit lost Ford’s manufacturer support in the mid-2000s, and despite winning the Drivers’ Championship title in 2010 with James Courtney, has been rescued by three separate bailouts in the last five years.
The team is headed by seven-time V8 Supercars champion and Ford devotee Dick Johnson, 67, who retired from frontline driving duties thirteen years ago.
The 2012 season was a tumultuous year for the team. He lost the use of two of the four Racing Entitlements Contracts operating under the DJR banner, with Paul Morris Motorsport selling its #49 entry to Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport, while DJR co-owner Charlie Schwerkolt opted to move his entry across to Ford Performance Racing.
The latest body blow comes from team co-investor Maurie Pickering, who opted to pull his funding of the team, having only just agreed to enter into a three-way partnership to save the outfit from ruin late last season.
It is understood that the DJR board will hold an emergency meeting tomorrow to try and thrash out another rescue plan to keep the team afloat. The outfit is currently over $2 million short in sponsorship and investment needed to keep it running through the 2013 season.
Johnson has reportedly sought financial assistance from V8 Supercars Australia, warning that his team’s closure would leave the field with just four Fords – all run by Ford Performance Racing – on the grid.
Failure to participate at any of the mandatory events would leave the team open to a $150,000 fine per car for every event missed, while ongoing breaches could see the team’s licenses being absorbed and resold by V8SA.
One likely solution is that Dick Johnson’s son, Steven, would be forced to step aside and vacate his racing seat for a pay driver who can bring enough sponsorship to keep the team running, while team-mate Dean Fiore (who leases his license to the team) is also looking to drive for another outfit.