It’s official – Tom Walkinshaw will run the new Holden Motor Sport road car operation.
Holden made its long-awaited decision on a joint venture partner to replace Peter Brock’s HDT last Friday – and although it won’t be finalised for several weeks, Walkinshaw is the successful contractor.
The new Holden-Walkinshaw joint venture will effectively replace Brock as the official builder and developer of road-going image cars.
The first of these will be a limited-run of 500 fuel-injected Group A Commodores, revealed exclusively in The Sun-Herald last April, and due for launch in August/September.
Walkinshaw, the archetypal canny Scot, slipped unannounced into Melbourne last week, joining his race team manager Andy Morrison. The latter had been in the Victorian capital for some time, and you can bet he wasn’t sightseeing.
The presence of these two – a long, long way from their home-base in Kidlington, Oxfordshire – at precisely the right moment, triggered lots of speculation.
But until Friday, Holden refused to comment despite reliable reports that work on the new Group A road car, particularly original moulds for the bodywork, has been underway at TWR in England for several months. That information makes sense, given the car’s August debut. There simply isn’t enough time left for a new chum to meet that production deadline.
Holden’s marketing manager, John Crennan, confirmed that report on Tuesday, but said it would be wrong to read too much into it.
“The work you’re quoting dates back to an agreement with Tom last November. It was purely a sub-contracting job,” he said.
Yet major Holden dealers and trade suppliers were convinced that Walkinshaw was the man, as early as Monday. They believe he will enter a two-car team at Bathurst as part of the overall Holden strategy.
Walkinshaw, the driver-cum-super businessman beat a syndicate headed by Allan Moffat, another bid from the Bob Jane organisation and a separate submission from an impressive group of well- credentialled motor industry executives.
Holden probably leaned his way on the basis of a proven track record in the UK, where he handles similar arrangements for Jaguar. He also runs major dealerships for Mazda and BMW and holds the Dunlop racing tyre franchise for the UK.
One of Walkinshaw’s major attractions, apart from his sizeable investment capacity, is his ability to produce everything he needs “in-house” and with absolute reliability.
The chances of the chunkily-built Scot seeking guidance from a guru are about as remote as Rex Mossop taking ballet lessons.
Walkinshaw will, no doubt, transplant that expertise into a new Australian operation in which John Harvey will have a role as one of Holden’s two representatives. Fishermen’s Bend will also hold a 25 per cent stake in the new joint venture.
Rob Margeit has been an automotive journalist for over 20 years, covering both motorsport and the car industry. Rob joined CarAdvice in 2016 after a long career at Australian Consolidated Press. Rob covers automotive news and car reviews while also writing in-depth feature articles on historically significant cars and auto manufacturers. He also loves discovering obscure models and researching their genesis and history.