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Feature: Why Walkinshaw is switching to Ford

PARKED UP PLUS podcast presenter Mark Fogarty dissects Walkinshaw Andretti United’s defection to Ford.

06 May 2022

Holden stalwart Walkinshaw Andretti United’s (WAU) impending switch to Ford is dividing fans.

To be confirmed today, WAU’s defection has generated equal outrage and support.

Reaction on social media is roughly split, with Holden diehards appalled and Ford fans rejoicing. Followers of WAU star Chaz Mostert are excited about his return to Ford.

WAU’s move to the Gen3 Mustang next year will be announced on Friday morning. It’s a seismic shift because historically, the team has been linked commercially and emotionally with Holden/General Motors.

Walkinshaw ran the factory Holden Racing Team from 1990-2016, alongside the HSV hot Holden road car division. It lost the HRT franchise to Triple Eight in 2017, when HSV’s 30 years as Holden’s performance partner also ended.

WAU retained a GM link through the parent Walkinshaw Automotive Group’s deal to ‘remanufacture’ right hand drive versions of the Chevrolet Camaro and Silverado pick-up.

The Camaro conversion failed to rival factory made RHD Mustangs and its future as a traditional V8 muscle car is in doubt beyond 2024.

Camaro will race in Australia without a local road car version and a limited life in the USA. WAU’s ties to GM’s post-Holden Specialty Vehicles division are tenuous.

Still, a Gen3 switch to Ford and the Mustang over the Camaro is a surprise – at least in the interim. It’s no secret WAU has been seeking a new third manufacturer alliance, derailed by the coronavirus pandemic, so staying in the GM fold next year seemed logical.

But for other commercial or competitive reasons, the historically Holden/GM Supercars team is defecting to Ford. It’s the biggest change since Triple Eight swapped from Falcon to Commodore in 2010.

Much more significant, though, because of Walkinshaw’s embedded history with Holden/GM. In its various guises, it has been a Holden flag-bearer for 30 years.

Since McLaren F1 boss Zak Brown and IndyCar legend Michael Andretti invested in 2018, the Clayton operation has rebuilt to become a Supercars force.

Following Chaz Mostert’s and Lee Holdsworth’s dominant victory in last year’s Bathurst 1000, WAU has been competitive. Mostert has won three of the opening 12 races of the Supercars championship, second only to defending title-winner Shane van Gisbergen’s eight victories.

WAU ‘crossing the floor’ for Gen3 will alter the Ford/GM balance. It’s now 16 Commodores versus nine Mustangs; next year it will be 11 Mustangs against 14 Camaros.

Apart from just potential competitive advantages, there could be commercial gains for the Walkinshaw Automotive Group. It converts American RAM and Chevrolet pick-ups to RHD, as well as upgrading VW Amoraks. Work for Ford with enhanced Rangers is not out of the question.

Ruled out, though, is converting F-150s to RHD, already dedicated to a Thailand-based engineering company.

Whatever the reason, the implications of WAU’s dramatic change in Supercars are profound. As we understand, Chevrolet Racing is offering minimal incentives to existing Holden teams.

WAU’s switch to Ford is a sign that factory support for the Camaro is very limited. The word is that Ford Australia support for Supercars is also lukewarm.

Little or no money directly, but substantive support with CFD aero development of the Gen3 Mustang’s shape.

Friday’s announcement will confirm the company’s local commitment, backed by Ford Performance in the USA. The Gen3 Mustang will adopt the altered look of the 2023 S650 update.