Walkinshaw Andretti United will field a wildcard entry in this year’s Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 for IndyCar stars Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe.
The Holden Supercars squad has been keen to field a wildcard since it announced the alliance with IndyCar giant Andretti Autosport and Zak Brown’s United Autosports in 2017.
WAU’s third ZB Commodore for Rossi and Hinchcliffe will join the squad’s two regular entries for the Pirtek Enduro Cup piloted by James Courtney/Jack Perkins and Scott Pye/Warren Luff.
“Running a wildcard entry for the Bathurst 1000 has been a goal for us since the formation of Walkinshaw Andretti United, and I’m really looking forward to bringing some of Andretti Autosport to The Mountain,” said team co-owner Michael Andretti.
The wildcard will run under #27 which historically has been an Andretti Autosport number with a successful history.
Rossi currently uses the number in the IndyCar Series and Hinchcliffe also ran it during his time with the team, while it is also seen on Andretti Autosport Indy Lights and Formula E entries.
The team is yet to secure a naming rights partner for the entry but has confirmed that William Sandbrook, Chairman and CEO of U.S. Concrete, will personally support the entry alongside backing from Virgin Australia.
Engineering and mechanical staff for the entry will be sourced from Walkinshaw Andretti United staff locally, as well as Andretti Autosport and United Autosports employees, who will also make the trek to Australia for the Great Race.
Contesting Supercars showpiece event will offer Rossi a whole new challenge having focused his career predominantly around single seaters.
The 27-year-old American boats an impressive resume having won the 2016 Indy 500 after rising through the open wheel ranks in Europe to Formula 1 with Marussia in 2014 and 2015.
Rossi is currently second in this year’s IndyCar Series standings.
“It’s 100 percent a bucket list item,” said Rossi.
“It’s in one of those six big races alongside the likes of the Indy 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans. Bathurst is right up there, so to be able to have this opportunity to do it with Walkinshaw Andretti United and still be close to home with the Andretti Autosport connection is very cool and I can’t wait to get started.
“It’s going to be a steep learning curve and I’m very aware of that.
“I’ve got a few friends who are Supercars drivers, so I know how talented the competition is, and how challenging this specific racetrack is, but at the same time it’s a really exciting challenge and something that has been on my target list for a long time, we’re going to go out and do the best we can.”
Unlike Rossi, Hinchcliffe has previously driven Supercar having raced for Garry Rogers Motorsport in the 2012 Gold Coast 600.
The 32-year-old Canadian is also a proven quantity in single seaters having recorded six IndyCar race wins and currently races for Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
“As drivers we look back at the era of guys like Mario (Andretti) jumping in a different car every weekend, the nature of the sport now is quite different and it’s not quite as easy to do that,” said Hinchcliffe.
“When these opportunities come up you want to jump at them and really grab a hold of them.
“The Gold Coast race some years ago was a huge blast and a bucket list thing to, but for Supercars the Bathurst 1000 is their Indy 500, it is their 24 Hours of Le Mans, it’s their hallmark event so to get to add that one to the résumé is very special.
“For sure it’s a big ask, we are neophytes to the car, to the track, to everything involved, but I think we are both competitive and Alex is an immensely talented guy, a very driven guy, and together we can push ourselves and the team and hopefully not make ourselves look too silly.”
Team co-owner Ryan Walkinshaw praised the support the program has received from Supercars and believes the wildcard is a big deal for his outfit and the sport.
“It’s fantastic to bring this program to life, and to strengthen our relationship with our partners,” said Walkinshaw.
“I can’t wait to see both Alexander and James behind the wheel of a Supercar. It’s not only a big deal for our team, but the sport as a whole.”
Rossi and Hinchcliffe will head to Australia early to conduct a three day test at Winton ahead of the Great Race from October 1-3.
Theirs will not be the only wildcard entry at the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, with Kostecki Brothers Racing to enter all three events of the Pirtek Enduro Cup.