If you had to pick one word to describe GRM’s season so far you couldn’t go far wrong with turbulent. The fortunes of Garry Rodgers Motorsport have taken a dramatic downturn in the months after Scott McLaughlin’s clean sweep of Philip Island early in the season and an incredible amount of uncertainly still surrounds the team over the course of the summer break. I’m working my way down the pit lane over the course of the VASC mid season break and today I’ve turned my attentions onto Wilson Security GRM, Scott McLaughlin and James Moffat and given my verdict on their fortunes so far.
I feel incredibly sorry for everyone at GRM. No sooner were the team riding a wave of success with McLaughlin seemingly expected to re-sign in the wake of a new contract from Volvo was the rug pulled from under their feet after it was announced that Volvo were in fact withdrawing from Supercars at the end of the 2016 season, taking the cars and engines back to Sweden. Now, as far as I’m aware attempts to keep the Volvo S60 chassis’s and engines are still very much ongoing, and the general consensus on the forums is that Volvo have no right to recall the cars. Someone please comment and correct me if I’m wrong!
I think GRM’s chances of securing a manufacturer deal for next season are slim, probably non existent and it’s hard to image them moving to anything but Holden if they fail to keep running the Volvos as they plan for another year. They’re a great little team who have consistently bagged results since they became Volvo, and it would be a shame to see the team fall out of regular top ten running. With McLaughlin off at the end of the season I fear that’s exactly where GRM could disappear given the current form of James Moffat, but credit to the team for bagging race wins and podiums, and solving the early season reliability problems which destroyed their campaign early on in 2015.
My verdict? Apart from now HRT, Garry Rodgers Motorsport, along with Erebus have probably had one of the most turbulent seasons out of all the teams to date. Credit where credit’s due in terms of staying competitive, but I think their chances of a drivers title have slipped away and a strong end to the season is the best the team can hope for. Chin up guys.
Championship Position: 5th Race Wins: 2
Scott McLaughlin has probably been the most talked about driver in pit lane this year, and despite being under a awful lot of media attention since the Clipsal 500 back in March the young Kiwi has dealt with the pressure excellently. I think a large part of McLaughlin’s decision to leave GRM for DJR Team Penske was made when Volvo withdrew, and only Scott will ever know if he would have stayed with the team had they retained factory support. It’s a tough decision to make, leaving a team at which you’ve carved out your name and reputation in but with the size and potential reach of the Penske Organisation, not to mention McLaughlin’s ambition to one day race overseas his move does make sense. The likely increase in pay probably didn’t do any harm either, although I think Scotty did a great job of publicly demonstrating how hard a decision it was.
If I was Garry Rodgers I’d make it a priority to replace McLaughlin with a top name driver capable of matching his skill and points haul. Someone like a James Courtney of Garth Tander now that their futures are somewhat up in the air. Barring a couple of disappointing races McLaughlin has been fantastic over the opening half of the season, two race wins and four podiums represent a solid haul for the Kiwi, and the fact that the #33 still sits in 5th in the table, after what some have described as a disappointing run of results in recent races is testament to the efforts of everyone at the team.
It’s been a tumultuous, but impressive opening half of the season. With the move to DJR Team Penske now out in the open McLaughlin will most likely be reduced to a best of the rest role behind Triple Eight and PRA. Given Volvo’s recent form another race win is possible, but bagging a few more podiums before the year’s out is certainly a realistic target, and would be a good way for McLaughlin and GRM to sign off with Volvo. He’ll be sorely missed.
Championship Position: 19th Top Tens: 3
I don’t want to use this opportunity to slate James Moffat, because he’s said himself on more than one occasion this season that his performances haven’t been up to the standard anyone at the team, or indeed himself expected. Moffat’s struggles in the #34 aren’t all black and white, and I think it must be very difficult to come into a team and car which has essentially been tuned to McLaughlin’s liking for three years and immediately match his performances. But, I also think that’s Moffat is far better than his lowly championship standing suggests this season. That, or Scott McLaughlin is just far more talented than originally thought, to be honest it’s probably a little bit of both.
Queensland Raceway last time out was probably along with Philip Island (where the Volvo was supreme) was one of Moffat’s strongest performances of the season where he secured 9th and 11th place finishes, and it came at a vital time where driver moves are beginning to happen on the market. There have been plenty of rumours circling around that Moffat has been searching for a endurance drive for next season, and if that’s the case it would point to GRM potentially looking like a whole new team in 2017.
Personally, I’d like to see Moffat given a little more time to turn his season around before being brought under the knife, I think he’s shown enough flashes of pace to deserve being given a fair crack at the whip although if results don’t improve it’s going to be hard for GRM to justify keeping him on. It’s been a tough start his Volvo career, but with three of his best results coming in the last five races the signs of improvement are potentially there. It can’t be easy trying to match up to McLaughlin’s dazzling drives but Garry Rodgers might just need an experienced, level head in one of his cars if he pumps for James Golding next season.