Walkinshaw Andretti United team principal Mathew Nilsson believes there is no extra pressure for his team to perform in front of new co-owner Michael Andretti at this weekend’s Adelaide 500.
Andretti will make the trip from America to witness the Clayton squad contest its first event under its new ownership structure which came into effect from the start of the year.
The former IndyCar star turned team owner, who visited the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 last year, will be in attendance alongside fellow co-owner Ryan Walkinshaw, while the team’s third co-owner Zak Brown will be in Spain overseeing McLaren’s Formula 1 pre-season test.
After one of its worst seasons on record last year, the former factory Holden squad is desperate to return to the sharp end of the Supercars grid with its drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye.
The team has been working hard to address its weaknesses during the off-season while attempting to unlock the potential from the new Holden ZB Commodore aero package.
While eager to shine on what has been a happy hunting ground in Adelaide, Nilsson says Andretti’s arrival shouldn’t affect the team’s approach.
“I don’t know if it’s pressure but it is the requirement of the business, and it is exciting to have him (Michael) travel all the way from the States,” Nilsson told Speedcafe.com.
“For sure it will be great to have him there supporting us and we will always want to get the best results we can.
“You always aim to move forward and everyone is excited to get our first race meeting underway as Walkinshaw Andretti United.
“It is exciting to be representing that brand.
“For sure, you are always working on weaknesses in the team as well as maximising your strengths. That is a continual process with the changes in the team structure.
“If you look at the past history there is no doubt it (Adelaide) has been a solid circuit for us and that comes with some knowledge of what has worked at the circuit before to get off to a good start.
“There is some good knowledge that can be applied.
“We have come out of the test day having worked through a program but the reality is we have still got to learn the ZB Commodore as we have only had the one hit out with it.”
Despite limited running with the ZB Commodore at a Winton shakedown followed by the Sydney Motorsport Park test, Nilsson believes there is cause for optimism heading into the new season with the latest generation Holden.
The squad has earmarked improving its one lap speed in qualifying as its main priority as it attempts to be regularly inside the top 10 this year.
“I think we have all the ingredients (to be successful) and from an engineering side we have got a good group of guys working together,” Nilsson added.
“It is pretty clear that qualifying performance has been our weakness so we have to see progress in that area as the key because out of qualifying comes the race results.
“We want to target being inside the top 10 as consistently as we can and from that you can grow your opportunities to get better results.
“Of course we want wins but we just need to be consistent and focus on improving the qualifying performance is the main priority.”
The Supercars field will hit the track for the first time on Friday when opening practice begins at 0945 local time.