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BIG CHANGES AT HOLDEN MOTORSPORT

A day after launching its new factory Red Bull Holden Racing Team, Holden has made major changes in its motorsport program – including the departure of several leading managers.

The brand’s long-time motorsport and sponsorship boss Simon McNamara and technical manager Peter Harker are expected to leave the company imminently, and Holden may also end its technical and parts support for other Holden Supercars teams.

Rumours of the changes spread as last week’s Detroit Motor Show, which was attended by a number of Holden personnel and several Australian motoring journalists.

When approached for a comment on the USA rumours a shocked McNamara told Auto Action, “It’s news to me.”

However, AA has been told that Supercars teams were contact by Harker on Thursday via email, advising that he was no longer a part of Holden. We understand that he was a victim of Holden’s massive engineering cull two years ago before being recruited back as a contractor by McNamara.

Despite a significant reduction in its motor racing budget – believed to be more than 60 percent less from that in place in the early-to-mid 2000s – since McNamara’s appointment in 2004 he has presided over the most successful period in Holden’s long motor racing history.

He oversaw the introduction of the VE and VF Commodores (the most winning models in Australian Touring Car history), eight Bathurst 1000 wins, and the past seven straight manufacturers titles for the Lion badged brand.
McNamara is also the man credited with putting the original Holden/Triple Eight deal together shortly after Ford unceremoniously dumped the Roland Dane-run organisation in a major shock during the 2008 season.

Since debuting Commodores in 2010, Triple Eight has been Holden’s most successful team, winning seven straight team’s championships, five driver titles, three Bathurst 1000s, and more than 100 championship races – those results leading to Dane’s outfit to be anointed as Holden’s official factory team from this year.

In his technical role, Harker oversaw the development and delivery of the VE and VF packages, coordinating the programs the design and aero programs between Holden, the former Holden Racing Team and Triple Eight (for VF).

He has been working closely with GM Racing in the United States on Holden’s crucial V6 twin turbo Gen 2 Supercars engine program for 2018.

The move to dismantle Holden Motorsport a day after its new factory team launch is surprising considering its history and importance, and will shock the industry.

Despite budget and staffing pressures, and little support coming from within Fishermans Bend, Holden Motorsport has continued to be one of the company’s few successes, even as its new car sales have plummeted – last year’s sales falling to a 25-year low.

The closure comes on the eve of complete generational change to the sport.

How its dismantling will affect the development of next generation Commodore and Holden’s all-important V6 twin turbo engine is uncertain, but such a massive upheaval is likely to have considerable affect.

And just who will assume the pressures and requirements of McNamara and Harker’s roles within Holden, a company now devoid of motor racing experience, is unclear.

Auto Action is seeking comment from Holden officials.