DANDENONG SOUTH, Victoria, Australia – Welcome back to Race Chaser Online’s 2017 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship season previews! Our final week of previews begins with Garry Rogers Motorsport.
Garry Rogers Motorsport
No. 33 – Garth Tander, Wilson Security Racing Holden Commodore VF
No. 34 – James Moffat, Wilson Security Racing Holden Commodore VF
2016 TEAM POINTS FINISH: 3rd
2016 HIGHEST RACE FINISH: Scott McLaughlin’s pair of victories at Phillip Island
The award for “busiest team in the offseason” goes to Garry Rogers Motorsport, without question.
This is a team that spent the majority of 2016 in a protracted legal battle after Volvo announced that it would not return to Supercars for the 2017 season. Volvo believed that since it built the engines in Sweden, it also had the right to take the engines back at season’s end. Garry Rogers Motorsport wanted the engines back for 2017, arguing that they were purpose-built for Supercars and had little use otherwise.
The announcement came from Volvo in May, and legal action from GRM began in September. For most of the season, the uncertainty of what manufacturer GRM would run for 2017 hung over the team.
Impressively, that pressure did not factor into their on-track performance all that much. They finished third in the team standings – their best finish in years – behind Scott McLaughlin’s two wins and eight podiums.
But as the team enters 2017, McLaughlin is not with them. He announced his departure to DJR Team Penske in June of last season and will enter the next stage of his career behind the wheel of their Ford Falcons.
Volvo is not with the team either, save for sponsorship from their trucking division (which was a separate deal from the manufacturer agreement to begin with). The solution that GRM came up with to fill their void was to run Holden Commodores again, as they did before the switch to Volvo came for the 2014 season.
The most amazing thing about this switch is that GRM only announced it in mid-January. Though one would suspect that they began work before the announcement, GRM’s personnel in the shop were tasked with building two brand-new Holden chassis and engines – and had to complete them within an eight-week period.
That, by any measure, is a monumental task.
But, as the field enters 2017, both Holdens are ready to go, outfitted in a new white and light-blue Wilson Security livery.
James Moffat returns to the No. 34 for 2017, and will look to shine at some of the tighter tracks – his best results last season came at places such as Hidden Valley Raceway, Queensland Raceway, Surfers Paradise, and the Homebush Street Circuit. He also has had a knack in the past for finding the podium at Bathurst, so fans should watch the No. 34 to be successful on the mountain come October.
He is joined in the No. 33 by Garth Tander, who comes over from Mobil 1 HSV Racing to replace McLaughlin. It is a homecoming for Tander, who got his start in Supercars driving for Rogers from 1998-2004.
In this case, Rogers has bucked the trend of bringing in youth to drive in Supercars that has swept the field as of late. Turning 40 in March, Tander is one of the most experienced drivers in the entire Supercars grid.
His 2016 story reads similarly to Jason Brights: performance had sagged by the driver’s standards and the driver felt like a shake-up and change in surroundings was necessary to reenergize his career (though it should be noted that Tander’s results were slightly better than Bright’s in recent seasons, and the drop-off from his peak levels of performance was not as large as Bright’s).
Though Tander may have been disappointed in his 2016, most would look at it as a solid season from the Western Australia native. He finished on the podium four times and won one of the three races in the PIRTEK Enduro Cup, the Wilson Security Sandown 500.
However, the biggest question for all of GRM – one that will persist through at least part of the season, if not the majority of it – is what will come next for them. It has been widely reported – and confirmed by Rogers himself – that they are already in talks to bring a new manufacturer into Supercars for 2018. Kia is the marque that has been most linked with GRM in reports, and with the launch of their new Stinger GT later this year, they will have a model capable of competing in Supercars.
It is, then, entirely possible that they could run Holdens for only one season before switching manufacturers for the second time in three seasons come 2018. How GRM manages that situation, including what number of resources they devote to it should it come to fruition and to what degree they let the speculation become a distraction – will dictate much of their performance in 2017.
That being said, with the proven track record of success that GRM has, expect none of the above to hurt their performance. This is a sound and rock-solid operation that will continue to challenge for podiums and wins throughout the season, as they consistently have done season after season.
For more information on Garry Rogers Motorsport, visit www.grmotorsport.com.au.
For more information on the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, visit www.supercars.com.
About the Writer
James Pike is a multi-faceted reporter for Race Chaser Online and an analyst on the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
He is the lead correspondent for Race Chaser Online’s coverage of Australian Supercars and also covers regional touring series events in the Carolinas. He is a graduate of the Motorsports Management program at Belmont Abbey College and currently resides in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Email James at: RaceChaserJames@gmail.com
Follow on Twitter: @JamesVPike
Email Race Chaser Online: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow RCO on Twitter: @RaceChaserNews