Holden Racing team – a short history full of famous names and big wins
Holden Racing Team (HRT) is an Australian racing team, established in 1990, which competes in the V8 Supercars Championship. It’s one of the most successful teams in the series, with six drivers’ championship titles and seven victories at famous Bathurst 1000 (until the end of season 2016).
The team is the factory team of Australian car manufacturer Holden. From 1990 to 2016, HRT had its base in Clayton, the suburb of Melbourne, where it shared its facilities with Walkinshaw Racing, the team which actually operated all the activities of HRT.
For the 2017 V8 Supercars season, Holden left Walkinshaw Racing and switched its factory support to the Triple Eight Race Engineering, forming the Red Bull Holden Racing Team.
Tom Walkinshaw was the man who started the HRT story
Holden has been present in the Australian touring car racing from the beginning through many different teams, but the story about current Holden Racing Team began in 1987. Tom Walkinshaw and Holden formed Holden Special Vehicle, the firm specialized in modifying and producing the sportier versions of Holden cars. They designed Group A racing version of Holden VL Commodore. In 1988 and 1989, the racing programme was operated by Perkins Engineering but in 1990, the complete business was moved to Clayton and Holden Racing Team was formed.
Bathurst win for Percy and Grice in the team’s debuting year
Longtime TWR driver Win Percy became both main driver and team manager of HRT in the 1990 Australian Touring Car Championship. He finished 8th in the championship standings, with 3rd place at Lakeside International Raceway as the best result. Percy missed only one of eight races when he went home to England because of the family bereavement. He was replaced by Neil Crompton. Percy and Crompton each got one car for 1990 Bathurst 1000. Percy’s co-driver was Allan Grice and Crompton was partnered by Brad Jones. Percy and Grice surprisingly won the race, Crompton and Jones finished fifth.
Second place behind legendary Godzilla
In 1991, Percy participated in eight of nine rounds of the Australian Touring Car Championship, driving newly homologated Commodore VN. He finished eighth in the final standings, without any wins and podiums. At 1991 Bathurst, Percy and Grice teamed together again and they finished second, behind the legendary Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R of Jim Richards and Mark Skaife.
In 1992, Percy returned to England and Tomas Mezera replaced him in the Australian Touring Car Championship. Team’s budget was short and they participated in only three races, without notable results. The new Commodore VP was developed under the new V8 regulations for next year, and the team used that car at 1992 Sandown 500 and 1992 Bathurst 1000. Tomas Mezera and Brad Jones finished third in Sandown while Win Percy and Allan Grice again raced together at Mount Panorama and finished fifth.
Wayne Gardner joined the team
In 1993, the team again had budget problems because the main sponsor Castrol left them. Tomas Mezera scored two podiums in nine races and finished 7th in the championship. The driver of the second car was former motorcycle world champion Wayne Gardner, who finished 14th in the classification.
At 1993 Bathurst, Gardner was partnered by Brad Jones and they finished third. Gardner had one more good result, winning the Australian Grand Prix support race. Later in the season, Gardner was in the middle of controversy, after which he was accused of wanting the team’s sponsor for himself. He claimed that he only wanted to secure extra funding for the team. However, Gardner made an agreement with Coca-Cola for 1994 , but he requested the part of the ownership of HRT. He was rejected by Tom Walkinshaw and Gardner later formed his own team.
Peter Brock and his sponsors came in 1994
Instead of Coca-Cola, Mobil and NGK started sponsoring the team in 1994 and remained with the team until 2015. Sponsors came together with Peter Brock, nine-time Bathurst winner and one of the greatest Australian drivers ever. Not everybody in Holden welcomed Brock, because they had a nasty split with his Holden Dealer Team in 1987, but the call of money was the most important.
Brock scored HRT’s first ever victory in the Australian Touring Car Championship, winning the race at Eastern Creek. He added four podiums and finished third in the championship. Tomas Mezera drove the second car and finished ninth in the standings.
Young Lowndes impressed everybody
At 1994 Sandown 500 Craig Lowndes debuted for the team alongside Brad Jones. They finished fifth, one place ahead Brock and Mezera in the #05 car. Lowndes impressed with the fastest lap of all four HRT drivers, so he was chosen to drive also at 1994 Bathurst 1000. Lowndes and Jones finished second, behind Dick Johnson and John Bowe.
In 1995, the team was using the new Commodore VR. Brock again finished third in the championship, with eight podiums in ten races. Mezera finished fifth in the classification. For endurance races Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000, Craig Lowndes and Greg Murphy were chosen for the second car, Brock and Mezera competed with #05 Commodore. Both cars retired in both races, but Lowndes again impressed the team bosses with pole position at Bathurst and he was announced as a full-time driver for 1996 season.
Lowndes dominantly won 1996 championship
With six wins in 10 races, Craig Lowndes dominantly won the 1996 Australian Touring Car Championship. Peter Brock finished fourth. It was a dream season for Lowndes, as he also won at Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000, both time together with Greg Murphy. Brock and Mezera were third at Sandown and fifth at Mount Panorama.
In 1997, Lowndes went to Europe to compete in the Formula 3000, so he was replaced by Greg Murphy in the cockpit of Commodore VS. Peter Brock announced his retirement after the season. With one victory and one podium, Brock finished sixth in his last season. Murphy scored three wins and one more podium to finish fourth in the championship. For the endurance races, Lowndes returned from Europe to drive with Murphy and they won Sandown 500. Brock’s partner was Mark Skaife, they retired both at Sandown and Bathurst.
Two more titles for Craig
In 1998, Lowndes returned to Holden Racing Team and again won the championship, with six wins in 10 races. Mark Skaife, who replaced Peter Brock, was also successful and finished third in the standings. At the Sandown 500, Lowndes and Skaife competed together and finished second. At the Bathurst 1000 they won a pole and were leading for the most of the race, but due to multiple tyre problems they finished sixth.
Craig Lowndes added one more title to his account in 1999, winning two of 13 races in the renamed Shell Championship Series. Mark Skaife scored six victories but in other races he reached just one podium, against six podiums of Lowndes, so Skaife finished third in the classification.
At 1999 Bathurst 1000, Holden Racing Team took two podium places with VT Commodores. Lowndes and Cameron McConvile were second, Skaife and Paul Morris were third. The winners were Steven Richards and Greg Murphy in the Gibson Motorsport’s Commodore.
Three consecutive titles for Mark Skaife
In 2000, Skaife and Lowndes switched the places in the championship standings, so Skaife won the title and Lowndes was third. At Bathurst 1000, they raced together and finished sixth. One place higher were Holden’s juniors Todd Kelly and Nathan Pretty. HRT entered the race with a third car, driven by Jason Plato and Yvan Muller, and they finished 10th.
In 2001, Skaife repeated championship victory, with four wins in 13 races. His new teammate was Jason Bright, who finished third in the classification. Skaife was also the winner of the 2001 Bathurst 1000, sharing the Holden VX Commodore with Tony Longhurst.
Skaife and Richards won 2002 Bathurst 1000
In 2002, the competition again had a new name but the winner was the same. Mark Skaife won his third consecutive title in the series renamed to the V8 Supercar Championship Series. Jason Bright finished fourth while Rick Kelly drove the third car under the banner of Holden Young Lions and finished 16th.
At Bathurst 1000 Holden Racing Team took three places in top 4. Mark Skaife and Jim Richards won the race, Jason Bright and Tomas Mezera were third, Rick Kelly and Nathan Pretty finished fourth.
Todd Kelly partnered Skaife in a Bathurst triumph
In 2003, Tom Walkinshaw Racing collapsed, as a result of financial doubts of their ownership over Arrows F1 team. Holden purchased TWR and re-sold it to Mark Skaife. He remained the main driver and finished third in the championship, with five wins in 22 races. Todd Kelly was signed as the second driver. They drove together at Bathurst 1000 and finished eight.
The season 2004 was one of the worst, Todd Kelly finished 7th in the V8 Supercar Championship Series and Skaife was 12th. They were joined by Jason Plato and Peter Brock for the endurance races.
In 2005, Todd Kelly and Mark Skaife collected eight championship wins for Holden Racing Team, including the victory at Bathurst 1000. In the championship, Kelly and Skaife finished fourth and fifth respectively. James Courtney debuted for the team in the endurance races.
There were some miserable years too
The season 2006 was one more year of miserable results. Todd Kelly and Mark Skaife scored some victories in the championship but finished 6th and 16th respectively. The results in the endurance races were also not so memorable.
The new Commodore VE debuted in the 2007 V8 Supercar season. Kelly finished sixth and Skaife eighth, scoring seven wins for Holden Racing Team. At Bathurst, they competed together and retired, while Glenn Seton and Nathan Pretty in the second car finished 10th.
Garth Tander joined Holden Racing Team in 2008
In 2008, the defending champion Garth Tander was transferred from HSV Dealer Team to Holden Racing Team. Mark Skaife announced that it would be his last season. Tander scored eight wins and finished third in the championship, which was won by Jamie Whincup for the first time.
After leaving the team as a driver, Mark Skaife also sold 50 percent of ownership to Tom Walkinshaw. In the 2009 season, Skaife was replaced by Will Davison. Tander and Davison won the Bathurst 1000. In the championship, they placed themselves on 2nd (Davison) and 3rd (Tander) place.
Celebration livery at 2010 Bathurst 1000
One more disappointing season followed in 2010. The team finished 7th in the team’s standings, Tander was fifth and Davison 22nd in the drivers’ classification. The participation at 2010 Bathurst 1000 was marked by the retro livery of HRT cars to commemorate 20th anniversary of 1990 victory. Tander was partnered by Cameron McConville and they finished third.
Dramatic Bathurst win in 2011
In 2011, Will Davison left the team and was replaced with the defending champion James Courtney. He and Tander were far from the top in the championship, finishing fifth and tenth. Tander’s highlight of the season was the victory at Bathurst 1000, together with Nick Percat. In a dramatic race, they won with 0.3sec gap ahead of Craig Lowndes and Mark Skaife.
In the 2012 V8 Supercar season, HRT’s #2 and #22 cars scored no victories.With such poor results, Tander finished 7th in the classification and Courtney was 10th. Season’s highlight was Courtney’s fourth place at Bathurst, with Cameron McConvile as a co-driver.
The new generation V8 Supercars came in 2013
In 2013, the new VF Commodore was introduced. After 20 months without wins, HRT scored 1-2 victory at the Townsville 400, with Tander on the top and Courtney on 2nd place. Tander later won at Philip Island and Courtney won a race at Winton, to finish 8th and 11th in the championship. Tander was good at Bathurst and finished 4th, partnered by Nick Percat.
In 2014, Courtney won two races and Tander added one victory for Holden Racing Team, to finish the season 6th and 9th respectively. They had a difficult weekend at Bathurst, with the car of Tander and Warren Luff being withdrawn from the event after a major crash during Saturday practice, while Courtney and Greg Murphy suffered electrical problems during the race and they finished 13th.
Tander and Luff had a better luck in the 2015 Bathurst 1000, finishing third in a race. Jack Perkins and Russell Ingall shared the second car and finished 11th. James Courtney missed the race because of an injury. Courtney missed five races and finished tenth in the V8 Supercar Championship, while Tander completed the season and finished 6th.
The most successful Australian V8SC team
In total, from 1990 to 2016, Holden Racing team scored 179 race wins and earned six championship titles. The golden age was between 1996 and 2002, when Craig Lowndes and Mark Skaife won three titles each. Seven HRT’s victories at Bathurst 1000 were reached by ten different drivers, with Mark Skaife (3 times) and Garth Tander (2 times) as multiple winners.
New chapter with Triple Eight Race Engineering
The season 2016, in which Garth Tander and James Courtney scored one victory each, was the last with Walkinshaw Racing. The new chapter in Holden Racing Team’s history was opened in 2017, when a deal with Triple Eight Race Engineering was made. The team became an official Holden’s entry in the 2017 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, with Jamie Whincup in the #88 car and defending champion Shane van Gisbergen in the #97 car. As Triple Eight has sponsorship agreement with Red Bull, the team was branded as Red Bull Holden Racing Team.