The burden Walkinshaw wants to shake off
Tuesday 13th July, 2021 - 6:00am
Ryan Walkinshaw says his team must move up the pit lane pecking order to maximise its potential and challenge for championships.
After finishing seventh in the teams’ championship last year, Walkinshaw Andretti United finds itself parked in the middle of the pit lane.
A tight contest in a coronavirus-afflicted 2020 season saw the team narrowly miss out on fifth, pipped by fellow Melbourne-based squads Erebus Motorsport and Team 18.
In the end, just 79 points split fifth, sixth, and seventh in the teams’ championship, with the leading Brad Jones Racing stable not far behind in eighth.
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Speaking with Speedcafe.com, Walkinshaw admitted there is a need to make headway in the teams’ championship to become a serious contender for titles.
“Being down this far in the pit lane in the teams’ championship from last season is definitely hurting us,” said Walkinshaw.
“You always want to be further up. It’s obviously a focus going forward. We hope that by the end of the season we’ll move up a couple of spots.
“Obviously, if you’re going to be competing for the championship, you really want to be in the top three spots in pit lane to give yourself the best opportunity to maximise potential, particularly with things like Safety Cars and stuff like that so you don’t get boxed in with cars coming past you. It can ruin a race, particularly if you’re at the front, having to pit so far back in pit lane.
“We need to be in the top three, whether that happens this year, next year, or the year after, will come down to how well we perform.”
Mobil 1 Appliances Online Racing driver Chaz Mostert has again led the team’s efforts on-track in 2021, claiming two wins and a further three podiums.
He lies fourth in the drivers’ championship while Mobil 1 Middy’s Racing stable-mate Bryce Fullwood holds 13th.
As it stands, WAU occupies fourth in the teams’ championship and are threatening Tickford Racing for third with just 89 points between them.
It’s been an encouraging season so far for the Clayton-based team.
At the same point in the championship last year, Mostert was yet to win a race.
The 2014 Bathurst 1000 winner has already equalled last year’s podium tally at the halfway point this year.
Despite a rare tough outing at the NTI Townsville 500 last weekend, Walkinshaw has seen enough to be enthused that a move up the pit lane is possible.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do and we’re not getting too excited, but we’ve had a decent season so far,” said Walkinshaw.
“We’ve had a couple of unfortunate events where we’ve lost some points in the drivers’ and teams’ championship we wish we hadn’t have done.
“Chaz has been in the fight in pretty much every single event, which is good. The team is working really well together. The morale is probably the best it’s ever been since I’ve been involved.
“We’ve got a really, really good group of people who are working really well together. These things take time but we’re heading in the right direction and have got some good momentum, some good confidence, and we’ve just got to keep working hard, keep developing, and hopefully it’ll continue.
“It’s pretty clear that this is the best season we’ve had in a while. Last season was a good season at this point. I think we were second in the championship at this point last season as well.
“We’ve clearly taken a step up from where we were. We’re under no doubt that to beat Shane [van Gisbergen], there’s a lot of hard work ahead of us.”
And what of challenging for the championship? Walkinshaw said the team is focused on what’s in front of it before getting too far ahead of itself.
“We don’t focus on that, we just focus on event to event and how we’re developing our car and how we’re working as a team,” he explained.
“If you’re focusing on those, then better results and potentially future championships will take care of themselves.”
WAU will have the chance to have another crack at the Reid Park Street Circuit this weekend, with the WD-40 Townsville SuperSprint taking place across July 17-18.