Garry Rogers says he understands Scott McLaughlin’s decision to leave his eponymous squad for DJR Team Penske, citing Volvo’s impending withdrawal as a major blow.
Rogers took on McLaughlin as a 19-year-old Supercars Championship rookie in 2013, beginning a partnership that netted two wins in its first season.
The youngster’s star rose dramatically when GRM linked with Volvo a year later, matching on-track success with growing popularity among fans and media.
Although DJR Team Penske was already thought likely to win McLaughlin’s services, Rogers believes he had a fighting chance of retaining the driver before Volvo’s shock decision to withdraw came in April.
In addition to losing factory backing, the move has left uncertainty over GRM’s technical package for next season.
Rogers insists that the team will be able to continue to run the S60 body shape, but says negotiations are ongoing over engine supply.
“There’s no doubt about that,” Rogers told Speedcafe.com when asked if Volvo’s exit was a major factor in losing McLaughlin.
“I’m not saying that in years to come he wouldn’t have gone elsewhere anyway, but it would have affected his mindset.
“He’d be thinking ‘here they are about to have a dispute over what cars they’re going to be racing, what am I going to do?’ I don’t blame him for that.
“I’m close to that because I’m the one dealing with Volvo on a daily basis. I know what we’re going to do, but he’d be influenced by a lot of innuendo and other people’s opinions.
“As far as we’re concerned we’ll be racing Volvos and we’d like to think we’ll be doing so with Volvo engines.”
McLaughlin joins a long list of drivers to gain his start with GRM before electing to depart for another team.
The squad’s honour roll includes the likes of Steven Richards, Jason Bright, Jason Bargwanna, Garth Tander, Lee Holdsworth and Michael Caruso.
Rogers and McLaughlin addressed GRM’s staff to inform them of the driver’s decision today, where an ongoing commitment to winning this year’s title together was stressed.
GRM won Bathurst 16 years ago with Tander and Bargwanna but is yet to take out a Supercars Championship.
Although disappointed with McLaughlin’s move, Rogers says he can take pride in his part in the youngster’s development.
‘It’s a very emotional thing when you’ve started from scratch with a driver and you have success,” Rogers said.
“Particularly at our place because we do spend a lot of time together rather than all going our own ways.
“He conducts himself very, very maturely and I feel extremely proud of what we’ve been able to do with him.
“Not just as a driver, but with his approach to his life and how he manages his own affairs within commercial relationships.
“It’s different if you get a proven driver and they win some races and then they move somewhere else. You’re not really part of what happened.
“It’s particularly the case in this instance (McLaughlin). No one wanted him in the main game (for 2013) but I could see something in him.
“It’s disappointing from my point of view, but I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent with him and will continue to do so on a friend basis. There’s no angst.”
Rogers is thought likely to further his squad’s history of running rookies next year as his team’s Dunlop Series driver James Golding waits in the wings.
The 20-year-old Golding is currently in his second full Dunlop Series campaign with the team and will make his Pirtek Enduro Cup debut in its Volvos later this year.
“We haven’t been running James Golding just because we think he’s a good bloke,” said Rogers of 2017.
“But by the same token there are other options and opportunities that we’ll look at when they arise.”
James Moffat is already confirmed to continue in GRM’s #34 entry, joining the squad this season on a two-year deal.