The Supercars Championship has further cemented its status as one of the world’s biggest motorsports with the announcement that international powerhouses Andretti Autosport and United Autosports will be teaming up with Walkinshaw Racing from next season.
After a lacklustre season so far, the joint partnership is without doubt the biggest news for the team, if not the entire category, this year with Michael Andretti coming to Bathurst last weekend for the reveal.
In Andretti we have a team coming in which has won multiple CART/Indycar championships as well as Indanapolis 500’s. United brings a plethora of experience in endurance racing with them, more focused on tin-tops than their American counterparts.
Both Walkinshaw and Andretti will have an equal share in the team while Zak Brown, the head of United, will have a minority share but still play an important role in Walkinshaw Andretti United’s future.
The move comes just over three years since American icons Team Penske announced they would acquire a 51% share in Dick Johnson Racing, enduring two crucial learning seasons with the partnership coming to fruition this year with multiple race wins and the lead in both the driver’s and team’s championships.
Walkinshaw themselves are no strangers to being big fish in a new pond, the brand having its roots in the UK after Tom Walkinshaw founded the team in 1976. Even Triple Eight Race Engineering, the most dominant team in the history of the sport, comes from the motherland, joining the Supercars series in 2003.
Andretti’s inclusion in the championship is perhaps the crucial element of the deal, Michael Andretti admitting his team’s involvement is going to be more than just a shareholding operation.
“We are going to be very active, technically, to try and help,” he said at a press conference last week.
“In some ways, Indycar and Supercars are very similar in the way that the rules are very tight so detail is very important.
“We’ve learned a lot over the years with that formula and I think there’s a lot of things that we can do that maybe they (Walkinshaw) haven’t thought of or tried.
“There’s also things that we can learn from this side for our Indycar operation so it’s not all one-sided.
“Engine wise, I don’t think we have a whole lot to offer, it’s going to be more on the side of mechanical and aerodynamic (performance).
“I think there’s some things that we do that we may be able to help out with from CFD (computational fluid dynamics) and things like that.
“With dampers, we do a lot of work in terms of damper work with our cars; a lot of procedures we do may help over here.”
The suspension game is set to become one of the most important going in to the new chapter of Supercars with the battle of brands already being fought out on track.
Two years ago, it was the SupaShock equipped Prodrive cars which dominated the year after years of the Triple Eight cars, fitted with Sachs dampers, being the force to beat within the sport.
Despite Penske having their own brand of dampers (which Dick Johnson and John Bowe used on their EB Falcon in 1994 to win the Bathurst 1000) they are not currently homologated for use in Supercars, leaving their help with suspension more on a consultation basis if anything.
The same will likely initially happen with Walkinshaw Andretti United, at least for next year, before they assess bringing in a new brand to the category and all the changes which come with it.
Pic via Keith McInnes