ANALYSIS: Making sense of PremiAir/Jacobson split

PremiAir Racing owner Peter Xiberras and team principal Matty Cook

Little more than two months ago, Garry Jacobson was the underdog who’d heroically delivered PremiAir Racing not one, but three top 10 results on the mega stage that was the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix undercard.

Yesterday afternoon, he was sacked, effective immediately.

Brutal. Many in the game feel the 2016 Super2 Series title winner has been hard done by, but it’s a sure sign that Supercars’ newest team owner, Peter Xiberras, is not messing around.

And to a degree, that of course is a good thing, especially when you consider what really did seem to be the minimal effort put into its predecessor Team Sydney.

Xiberras has spared no expense in getting his two Triple Eight-built ZB Commodores up to spec, and the belief within the team is that the cars are better than the results that have been seen of late. Jacobson sat 24th of 25 full-timers in the championship, one place behind team-mate Chris Pither.

Pressure had been heaped on both Jacobson and Pither following a lacklustre Winton event, and the appearance of Tickford-contracted Zane Goddard at a pre-Darwin test day was widely interpreted as a warning shot from Xiberras.

A ragged Darwin event, which in hindsight looked like a driver trying a little too hard, was enough for Jacobson’s contract to be terminated.

One school of thought is that PremiAir should have been more patient, kept gathering good people like team principal Matty Cook (and maybe ex-Walkinshaw Andretti United engineer Geoffrey Slater soon), and put all of its eggs into the 2023 basket that is Gen3.

It’s expected PremiAir might make a splash in the silly season for a big name, with Mark Winterbottom and Will Davison possible candidates should they not be renewed at their current teams.

But the play evidently has been to not wait until next year, with Goddard and Kurt Kostecki the favourites to fill the #76 seat at Townsville in just over a fortnight.

Garry Jacobson. Picture: Ross Gibb

Entering a team mid-season can be a tough proposition for a driver unfamiliar with the car, and so expectations would have to be accordingly realistic.

Ideally, you’d have to think, the new driver will be joining with desire on both sides to continue through next year, otherwise what was the point of firing Jacobson? To put staff on notice?

Either way, Xiberras has laid his cards on the table – it’s not the first time he has shown the door to a staff member this year – and it will be intriguing to see how the team responds.

Speedcafe.com does understand Subway’s sponsorship of the team will remain regardless of the driver change.

As for Jacobson, it’s a crushing blow to his hopes of establishing stability in the main game.

He is likely to land a Bathurst 1000 co-drive, perhaps with Matt Stone Racing, where the mission to rebuild his career will begin.

While maybe not a Supercars champion in the making, Jacobson has become a popular face in the paddock for being a genuine nice guy, for working ultra-hard, and for being open to the fact that he’s not yet the complete package.

But bouncing back from this will require some real resilience.

They say successful businessmen don’t wait to make ruthless decisions; probably by this time next year it will be clear whether Xiberras’ bold call was the right one.

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