Walkinshaw backing Burgess amid HRT struggle
Holden Racing Team owner Ryan Walkinshaw says he has no issues with Adrian Burgess’ leadership of the squad amid its continued struggle to be a consistent Supercars force.
Burgess’ defection from Triple Eight to HRT in mid-2013 was arguably the biggest staff poaching in the history of Australian motorsport that was intended to propel the factory squad forwards.
Although flashes of brilliance have occurred over the past three seasons, this year has seen the squad slip further down the pecking order in the highly competitive championship.
United Kingdom-based Walkinshaw was on hand to assess his team’s performance at Hidden Valley, where both cars ran with fresh race engineers following a pre-event personnel shake-up.
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The HRT was the talk of the paddock in Darwin as its poor performances come amid crucial negotiations with Holden and continued speculation that the team is for sale.
Walkinshaw says he fully supports the leadership of Burgess, who forged a high standing in the category by guiding Dick Johnson Racing and Triple Eight to championships earlier this decade.
“Adrian isn’t the engineer on the car, his job is running the team,” Walkinshaw told Speedcafe.com.
“There’s no issues there. We’ve got to keep working together as a team to work through our issues.
“We’re not going to find solutions on getting qualifying speed out of the car by changing everything (including the management).”
Refusing to comment on the status of its talks with Holden, Walkinshaw emphatically denied continued suggestions that the team is on the market.
“I’m sure no one is as frustrated as what we are, but of course we’re committed,” he said of himself and mother Martine.
“Racing is definitely the smallest part of our business as a group, it’s probably only two or three percent of our entire group in Australia, but it’s something we’re incredibly passionate about.
“It’s something we spend a huge amount of time and focus on. It’s the public face of what we do in some ways and obviously we’re frustrated when we’re not getting the results we want to get.”
Burgess meanwhile concedes that he’s under pressure to turn around the team’s fortunes, but says he won’t be distracted by any paddock gossip about his performance and future.
“I’ve been doing this (motorsport) for over 30 years and whoever works in this team is always going to be under pressure,” Burgess told Speedcafe.com.
“It’s part of the job. I don’t lose any sleep over it and I’m not interested in what people are saying outside of the team.
“I’m interested in making sure that everyone inside the team and myself keeps their head clear and keeps working.
“I’m trying to do my job and with the people that I’ve got we’re trying to fix it.
“If there comes a point where I’m not enjoying it, or if Ryan or Martine don’t think I’m doing a good enough job then I won’t be here.”
Although admitting that returning the HRT to the front of the grid is “a bigger challenge than I originally thought”, he stresses that it’s unfair to compare the current situation with previous eras.
The team enjoyed a far superior budget to its rivals while it dominated the category from 1996 to 2002, with the early years also including a similarly beneficial Bridgestone tyre deal.
“People think it’s easy but it’s the most competitive touring car series in the world,” he said.
“People scoff at it and say HRT used to be great and yes, they did, but the landscape has changed massively since the period when HRT were competitive.
“HRT got left behind for a few years, a long way behind. We know and can see that. We’re trying to get that back.
“It’s not the work of a moment and it’s not because we’re not working hard to try and fix it.
“How much time will it take? Who knows. It took five years to win a championship at DJR when I turned up there.
“I hoped it wouldn’t take five here but we’ve had three already so we’ll have to wait and see.”