Roland Dane believes that Supercars can survive the loss of Holden as long it races cars which Australians identify with and want to watch.
General Motors’ decision to close down Holden by 2021 means that the days of Supercars’ most successful marque, which comprises two thirds of the grid this season, are numbered.
Although Holden as a brand still commands great affection, sales of the imported ZB Commodore and its other models were in freefall, leading initially to the decision to kill off the Commodore nameplate before finally shelving Holden altogether.
Dane, whose Triple Eight Race Engineering organisation currently competes in the Supercars Championship as the Red Bull Holden Racing Team, believes that the way forward for the category is to ensure that the cars which are raced are those which appeal to the Australian public.
“We want to carry on racing cars that represent what the Australian public has shown they enjoy watching, which is Supercars latterly (and) Australian Touring Cars over 60-odd years, and we’ve got to keep delivering a product along those lines.
“I think collectively as a category we will.”
While Nissan, Volvo, and Mercedes-Benz (in a private, customer capacity) have come and gone during the Car of the Future era which commenced in 2013, the Australian Touring Car Championship/Supercars has either formally or practically been a head-to-head stoush between Ford and Holden since 1993.
Whether GM remains involved in some form, through either the Camaro which itself faces an uncertain future, or potentially by way of the mooted GM Specialty Vehicles line which could be established in Australia post-Holden, has not yet been determined.
In any event, Dane also insists that the end of the traditional rivalry between the former heavyweights of the Australian automotive industry will not dent interest in Supercars.
“Not if we, collectively, as a category, do our homework properly,” he responded to questions about the potential for a loss of support from fans.
“I think that we can still provide the excitement and, honestly, the show that people have come to expect over many years.”
Dane also pointed to the fact that the broader automotive marketplace had shifted anyway.
“Unfortunately, one of the issues is an awful lot of people who’ve been barracking for the Holden brand over the last 10 years or so haven’t actually been buying the product, and for whatever reason,” he added.
“So, it’s a fact of life that a lot of people have been turning up to watch the races in other brands, so it’s something we’re all very aware of.
“Times change and we’ve got to change with them.”
A Pirtek Poll conducted by Speedcafe.com late last year found an appetite among readers for more variety in Supercars.
The Gen3 platform, which is a work in progress planned for implementation in 2022, provides an opportunity to attract more manufacturers or to at least reshape the category such that competitors are induced to race other marques.
Dane said that the Holden news does “not necessarily” change his view of Gen3 and that he would adopt a “wait and see” approach.
He similarly refused to speculate on what new models could be added to the field, but did assert that “There are plenty of possibilities out there”.
While Holden itself cast doubt on its racing activities in 2021, despite its factory team contract with Triple Eight applying for that season, Dane was confident that the ZB Commodore could continue on next year in a similar vein to how the FGX Falcon’s Championship tenure outlasted manufacturing by two years.
“The Holden brand will disappear by the end of this year,” he explained.
“You might see Holdens running around in the lesser categories, the Super2 category and beyond, for some years to come but you won’t see the Holden brand as a predominant brand in Supercars (Championship) 2021.
“Yeah (Commodores could race in 2021 without Holden branding), conceivably because the homologation as it were from Supercars will be valid for several more years.
“If you remember with the Falcon, even after they stopped the production of the car and its availability to the public, it carried on racing for several years.”