By Allan Edwards 4:34 PM Sat 9 October, 2010
Source: BigPond Sport
With current Toll HRT driver Will Davison expected to move to Ford Performance Racing next year, the factory Holden team is currently considering its options for a replacement steerer.
It is believed that Davison will announce his defection to FPR as soon as his current contract allows him to – after December 31, 2010.
While no one was prepared to talk 'on the record' the Bathurst pitlane was rife with scuttlebutt about who would fill the second seat at Toll HRT for 2011 and beyond alongside Garth Tander.
Walkinshaw Racing boss Craig Wilson refused to be drawn into any speculation about HRT’s 2011 driver line-up when approached by BigPond Sport.
David Reynolds is tipped as the most likely candidate if Walkinshaw Racing decides to recruit from within; however, some of the drivers currently with other teams rumoured to be on the short list include James Courtney, Michael Caruso, Jason Richards and Jason Bright.
It is understood that HRT is only interested in drivers capable of winning races from day one.
Courtney is the obvious choice should the factory Holden team decide to go for a ‘big money’ driver and he could be available if stories of an imminent implosion at Dick Johnson Racing are on the mark.
Bright and Richards are also proven winners, while those in the know believe Caruso has the goods to be a front-runner given the right equipment.
Going against Richards is the belief that the Kiwi is not considered a favourite amongst parochial Aussie fans and revenue from merchandising sales is extremely important to HRT’s budget. This would also count against current Walkinshaw Racing pilot Fabian Coulthard. The New Zealander has also struggled to reproduce the form he showed at Paul Cruikshank Racing since moving into the Walkinshaw stable at the start of this season.
It is known that Reynolds’ fortunes, meanwhile, have turned around in the eyes of the Clayton outfit’s hierarchy.
He was unceremoniously dumped from a full-time drive with the team at the end of last season, but has impressed with his improved attitude and the ability he has shown since returning to the stable for this season’s endurance races.
Caruso is contracted to GRM until the end of 2012, so any move to HRT would have to involve the factory Holden team 'buying out' that contract.
Garry Rogers gave a firm "no comment" when asked by BigPond Sport if any of his drivers' contracts could be bought out, but a source close to the team said Rogers would fight tooth and nail to hold them to their current contracts "unless a lot of cash was involved".
"To the best of my knowledge, no offer has been made and any offer would have to be a lot of money to interest Garry in letting go of either of his drivers; probably more money than what HRT has got at the moment!" BigPond Sport's source said.
Caruso wasn’t prepared to speculate on the possibility of HRT buying out his existing GRM contract.
"I honestly have no idea. If something were to happen then it would be my manager and Garry who would need to discuss that," Caruso said.
"As far as I know there is nothing on the table... I'm focussed on this team; we are running ninth in the Championship. This is my third year here and I'm very happy. Obviously we have some good things to come in the future here."
However, he said he would consider driving for HRT later in his career.
"HRT is such an established team and very successful; if the opportunity ever arrises I would have to assess it at the time," he said.
Richards and Bright are both contracted to BJR until the end of 2011.
Bright raced for the factory Holden team in the early 2000s, and now races a Walkinshaw Racing-built Commodore for Brad Jones Racing.
Both Bright and BJR co-owner Kim Jones insisted the rumours where little more than the result of some peoples' over active minds.
"Both of my drivers have contracts and are obliged to be a part of BJR until the end of next year, but anything is for sale. However, it's going to cost someone a hell of a lot of money to take them away," Jones told BigPond Sport.
"We have a very good relationship with both Jason Bright and Jason Richards. They are very comfortable and haven’t given us any indication that they are not happy.
"I can't see anything changing in the future unless someone comes up with a bag full of money and I'll always look at that."
Bright also confirmed that he has no plans to move.
"I have a two-year contract here and I am very happy here. We are kicking all of the right goals at the moment and making as good a progress as anyone in the field. I am very happy here and I won't be taking Will's position," he said.
Jones also denied that he was about to lose his Trading Post sponsorship to Davison's expected new home, Ford Performance Racing.
"The fact is that we did a three-year deal with Trading Post at the start of this year. That is the fact of the matter and nothing has changed!" Jones stressed.