Ryan Walkinshaw says he’ll do all he can to migrate staff made redundant by his V8 Supercars team’s major downsizing into other areas of the Walkinshaw Group.
The team confirmed today that it will scale back from four cars to just two next season, with Charlie Schwerkolt Racing’s exit to coincide with the sale of its own #47 Racing Entitlements Contract to Super Black.
Members of the team were hurriedly informed today of the planned downsizing after reports of the deal to split with Schwerkolt had begun to emerge.
Schwerkolt’s new operation, which will run a single Triple Eight-sourced Holden, appears the most likely destination for existing staff.
Although the Gold Coaster is yet to confirm any details of his new outfit, the team is being linked to the ex-Tasman Motorsport workshop in Dandenong, Melbourne, with former Tasman man Jeff Grech named as a potential manager.
Walkinshaw told Speedcafe.com that the downscaling of his outfit remains a work in progress, but job losses are inevitable.
“It’s one of the sad things about these situations,” said Walkinshaw, who will stay in Australia until Christmas while the team is reconfigured.
“Fortunately the Walkinshaw Group is growing pretty rapidly and we’ve got lots of new projects happening off the race track where we’ve been hiring new people.
“We’ll do what we can to incorporate as many as we can into those projects, but undoubtedly there’s going to be a few disappointed people.
“At the end of the day we will look after as many people as we can and it’ll be our focus to do so.”
While scaling back the V8 Supercars effort, Walkinshaw is attempting to ramp up his company’s off-track engineering client base, recently launching a deal to locally convert and sell right-hand-drive RAM trucks.
It comes amid an overall push to diversify the business roots away from traditional partner Holden, which will end local manufacturing in 2017.
Walkinshaw has been also linked to a potential GT3 racing program in Australia following managing director Adrian Burgess’ visit to last weekend’s Highlands 101.
The team is thought to be looking for opportunities in the Australian GT Championship, with Walkinshaw understood to be in the early stages of scouting for a factory-assisted deal.
“I don’t talk publicly about potential future projects,” he said bluntly when asked of GT3.
“We’re always on the lookout for business opportunities that make sense and tie in with our core competencies as a group, which is design, engineering, manufacturing and motorsport, but there’s no more to say on that.”
Walkinshaw is meanwhile adamant that scaling back to two cars will help, rather than hinder, the ability of his HRT entries to compete at the front of the V8 Supercars field.
The downsizing comes as category heavyweight Triple Eight expands to three cars next year, while Ford front-runners Prodrive currently compete with four.
“Triple Eight haven’t had too much of an issue with two cars,” he said.
“Focussing 100 percent of the time, effort and resources onto two cars has reaped rewards for them and we hope to do the same.”
While the catalyst for the split with Schwerkolt is understood to have been the team’s insistence on an increased preparation fee due to the poor economies of scale with three cars, Walkinshaw insists that they will part on good terms.
“Our preference was to focus on the two red cars if the deal could work for all of us to be happy together,” he said.
“We encouraged Charlie to look at other options and he found something really good and we’ve parted ways as friends, which is really important.”