Six Championships in ten years! That’s the enviable statistics that the Holden Racing Team has achieved in the decade of V8-only or V8 Supercar racing in Australia!
In the late 1990’s and the early part of this decade, HRT was almost unbeatable, winning five consecutive Championships and in possibly its most difficult season ever last year, still finished third – being in contention up until the final round in Sydney in late November.
This record establishes the Holden Racing Team as one of the most successful teams ever in Australian Touring Car racing since the inception of the Championship in 1960. The only drivers and/or teams that comes close is the legendry and late Ian Geoghegan who won 4 consecutive titles and 5 in 6 years but - apart from 1969 - "Pete's" crowns were run in the years when the ATCC was a one-race Championship. The other is Dick Johnson Racing that has recorded 6 title victories from 1981 to 1995.
The Holden Racing Team began following the establishment in 1988 of the joint venture between the TWR Group and General Motors – Holden, in forming Holden Special Vehicles. It was a logical step to form a touring car team to create a marketing link between the Special Vehicle’s division and the on-track heritage of Holden’s motor sport activities.
In 1989, Perkins Engineering was contracted by Holden Special Vehicles to run the racecars under the HSV banner, with the Holden Racing Team being established the following year under the management of Win Percy. Success was immediate, with Percy combining with Alan Grice to win that year’s Toohey’s 1000 at Mount Panorama, followed by a second place in 1991.
With the establishment of the V8-only category (later to become V8 Supercars) in 1993 and a return to the supporter-preferred Holden Vs Ford battles, HRT rebuilt. Under Managing Director John Crennan and Team Manager Jeff Grech the restructure began, with new personnel, new equipment and in 1994, the return of Peter Brock to the Holden Factory Team, plus the support of major sponsor Mobil Oil (Australia) Ltd. Mobil then became naming rights sponsor in 1995.
The three year plan implemented in 1994 had its result in 1996 with Craig Lowndes in his debut season sweeping the Australian Touring Car Championship, then with Greg Murphy, backed up to win the Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000 events. That was the first title for HRT, followed by the recent remarkable winning run of Championships from 1998 to 2002, shared by firstly Craig Lowndes and then Mark Skaife. Victories at Australia’s premier touring car event the Bathurst 1000 have also followed in 2001 and 2002.
2003 was possibly the Team’s most challenging year in its history. Initially the Team was in charge of the homologation development of Holden’s V8 Commodore race package including the V8 category’s “Project Blueprint” for technical parity, which was a massive engineering test. Then – just as the season was about to start – there was the financial collapse of HRT’s UK parent company the TWR Group.
This necessitated an initial buyout of the Team from the Receivers by Holden, before Mark Skaife became the new owner mid-season.
As Holden’s official factory team, the Holden Racing Team is proud to be able to continue Holden’s long tradition in motor sport in Australia. The Team is also honoured to have been, or be
associated with major National and International companies as part of the sponsor portfolio with firstly Telecom (Telstra) and then Mobil as naming rights sponsors. Holden of course now has the official naming rights, with Mobil the primary sponsor.
Originally, HRT was based in Notting Hill in Melbourne’s outer east. However the growth of the Team necessitated a move in early 1996 to its current base at Clayton Business Park, in the same complex as Holden Special Vehicles, with the racing operation now known as Holden Motorsport.
HRT contracts Holden Motorsport for its V8 Supercar requirements and the HMS factory allows all preparation to be carried out in-house for its contracted teams. This includes racecar preparation, sub-assembly, composite and fabrication areas plus an engine build shop, which includes three, 1000 horsepower water-brake dynamometers. This “dyne” area is also used in the development of the HSV road cars, including “optimising” of the HSV engines.
The success of the Holden Racing Team has encouraged key joint venture partners in technical support areas such as the partnership with John Hart Technology and Mazak Machine Tools that have resulted in HRT and the HMS facility enjoying one of the most comprehensive small design and manufacturing facilities in Australia. Similarly too, a long association with automotive paint refinisher PPG, has allowed the Group to have its own body repair and paint shop based in house.
The Holden Racing Team sees motor sport as a business, and will continue to work towards success for itself and its diverse sponsor group in the challenging seasons ahead.