We’re all now familiar with the name, but just how much do we know about one of the drivers hotly tipped to replace Scott McLaughlin at Garry Rodgers Motorsport next season? The silly season roundabout is just beginning and I’m sure we’ll see plenty of speculation over the next few weeks, but today I want to continue my Just Who Is series by profiling a driver who is sure to make his way into the main game sooner rather than later.
It’s been a rapid rise to Supercars prominence for James Golding. Currently the highest placed Commodore (3rd) in the Dunlop Series, the youngster from Warragul, Victoria is fast becoming one of the most talked about candidates to replace the highly rated Scott McLaughlin at GRM, and with Garry Rodgers’s well deserved reputation for spotting and nurturing young talent are we about to see another future superstar enter the series?
Golding began his career by winning both Victorian and Australian Karting titles before moving to single seaters and finishing 4th in his debut season in the Victorian Formula Ford Championship. After graduating to National Formula Ford in 2014 (and narrowly missing out on the title) Golding joined Garry Rodgers Motorsport in the 2015 Dunlop Series, the training ground for the VASC main game driving a Holden Commodore to 10th in the championship in his debut season. After that season which included strong finishes at Winton and at Homebush, Golding was re-signed to GRM for 2016 and continues to impress in the PAYCE Commodore.
The good news is that we won’t have to wait until next season’s Clipsal 500 to see Golding in main series action. The young apprentice will partner either McLaughlin or Moffat for the Endurance cup in a few months time and I can’t wait to see how he compares to the likes of Jack LeBrocq, another driver tipped for future success. As far as I’m aware GRM have yet to announce their partnerships for the Enduro Cup, but I’m personally hoping that we see Golding paired up with McLaughlin. If I’ve noticed one thing in the past, it’s that the Volvo’s have never really excelled in the Enduros apart from McLaughlin and Premat finishing 2nd at the Gold Coast on Sunday in 2014. Despite a poor weekend Townsville McLaughlin does still remain in the championship battle for now at least but it will be critical to bag a good haul of points in the Enduros to remain in the race past September and October. You can bet your bottom dollar that Triple Eight and Frosty/Canto will all score highly in the Pirtek Enduro Cup, and it’s pretty likely that one of them could win it. It’s vital that McLaughlin joins that club this season if he wants a shot at the title.
With the greatest of respect to David Wall, I think if GRM are still in with a shot at the championship come Sandown then Garry Rodgers should certainly pump for the combination of McLaughlin and Golding, who will drive at both Sandown at Bathurst in the Dunlop Series before starting the main race. But can we really expect to see Golding line up in the #33 come Adelaide next year?
Garry Rodgers is well known for his eye for talent and after nurturing the careers of both six time champion Jamie Whincup and Scott McLaughlin (who’s proved himself to be more than a match for Whincup on a few occasions), I wouldn’t be surprised to see Golding take his place. However, with Volvo departing at the end of the season uncertainty still remains about what car and package GRM will be running with in 2017. I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping the team manage to keep the two Volvo’s on the grid, the S60’s have been a fantastic addition to the series and with most (if not all) of the grid electing to remain the with current regulations for next season then the Volvo will most certainly have the capability to be a race winning package throughout next year. If one thing’s for certain it will be fascinating to see how Golding jumps from the Commodore to the Volvo and back during course of the Enduro’s with the Dunlop series also in action at Sandown at Bathurst.
But then we have the flip side of the coin. Without McLaughlin behind the wheel, GRM wouldn’t really have been anywhere so far this season as his teammate James Moffat has struggled in the #34. Could Golding’s chances depend on who is available elsewhere? And will his role at GRM be determined by Garry Rodgers’ attempts to put a more experienced driver in that car. It’s going to be very costly to the team to have two cars running near the back of the field, and we’ve seen with Cam Waters this season who took the Dunlop Series by storm in 2015 that the full time transition to Supercars is a tough one.
I’m on the fence with regards to whether I think Garry Rodgers will pump to give Golding a full time role in 2017, but I have no doubt that with his connection with team and his strong performances we’re bound to see him in Supercars full time before very long. Until then, we’ll have to wait until Sandown to see how Golding matches up to some other of the series’ biggest young talents.