V8SC: 2014 Preview – Valvoline Racing GRM

James Pike Featured, International, Supercars 0 Comments

Welcome back to Race Chaser Online’s 2014 V8 Supercars Championship Preview! Thursday begins with the return of the snowed-in Swedes to the land of speed through our next team, the old Garry Rogers Motorsport.

Volvo Polestar Racing / Valvoline Racing GRM

DRIVERS

#33 – Scott McLaughlin, Valvoline/ Cure for Life Foundation Volvo S60

#34 – Robert Dahlgren, Valvoline/ Cure for Life Foundation Volvo S60

2013 TEAM POINTS FINISH: 6th

2013 HIGHLIGHT MOMENT: Scott’s first career V8SC win at his home track, Pukekohe Park Raceway

Of all the changes seen in the V8 Supercars Championship during the offseason, none was larger than the change made by Garry Rogers Motorsport.

In the middle of the 2013 season, GRM announced that they would be departing the Holden family at the end of the 2013 and would begin running all-new Volvo S60s with factory support from Volvo’s performance arm, Polestar, for the 2014 season. To reflect the switch, the team will officially be known as “Volvo Polestar Racing”.

Volvo has a storied history in Australian motorsport, with famous drivers such as Kent Youlden, Tony Scott, Jim Richards, and the greatest driver in the history of Australian motorsport, the late Peter Brock, having piloted cars from the Swedish manufacturer at some point in their careers. Volvo even scored a historic victory on “The Mountain”, winning the 1998 Bathurst 1000 with Richards and Swede Rickard Rydell behind the wheel of a Volvo S40. It is a safe estimate, then, that fans of the history of Australian motorsport were elated to see one of their “old” brands return to racing down under for the first time since 1999.

Even while Garry Rogers Motorsport spent the second half of 2013 developing the new Volvo S60 chassis, they still managed to put together one of their strongest seasons in years. Their success can be quickly traced to the best driver hire in recent memory for GRM: Scott McLaughlin.

Scott started his career in 2010, when Stone Brothers Racing put him in one of their Dunlop Development Series cars. Scott worked his way through the DDS, and broke out in a major way in 2012, when he won both the DDS title and the New Zealand V8s title (a smaller version of the V8SC for the land of kiwis — the V8 Supercars equivalent of late model stock car racing in the U.S.). Those triumphs led to his hiring at Garry Rogers Motorsport for the 2013 season, where he replaced the outgoing Michael Caruso (who was off to pilot one of the new Nissan Norton Hornets).

In his first full season in the V8 Supercars Championship, McLaughlin had a sensational rookie campaign, finishing 10th in the driver’s championship and scoring two victories. It did not hurt that one of those two victories happened to come at his home track, Pukekohe Park Raceway (just outside of Auckland), in the V8 Supercars’ first race back there since 2007 (as the circuit underwent extensive renovations to bring it back up to V8SC standards).

With that win, McLaughlin became the youngest driver ever to win a V8 Supercars Championship race at just 19 years and 308 days old. For a driver who spends his days working as a fabricator (he was an apprentice for SBR and then GRM when he moved over, and completed his program last year; now, he’s graduated to a full-time employee at the shop), it was quite the start to his career in the top level of Australian motorsport.

On the other hand, teammate Alex Premat was not so fortunate. His finish in the opening race at the Clipsal 500 (4th) would be his highest of the entire season. He would not return to the top 5 for the remainder of 2013 and would only crack the top 10 three more times in the final 35 races. While it was an improvement over a dismal 2012, it still was not at the level of performance Premat can perform at when he’s at his best.

Coming off of their solid run in 2013, Garry Rogers Motorsport has changed more than any other team in the V8 Supercars Championship during the offseason. They have switched manufacturers, with Volvo (and their factory support) replacing Holden. They have switched primary sponsors, with Valvoline returning as primary sponsor of the team after four years as a secondary underneath Fujitsu (who departed GRM at the end of last season). Valvoline’s return will be nostalgic for many long-time followers of the series- they were the primary sponsor of the GRM cars from 1996 to 2009. They have switched liveries, replacing the Fujitsu red-and-silver with the stunning and beautiful “rebel blue” that is Polestar’s signature color. Finally, they have switched drivers, with Volvo using their weight to bring in factory driver (and Swede) Robert Dahlgren. Dahlgren will replace Premat in the #34 and be the only driver not to hail from Australia or New Zealand in the 2014 championship.

With all the changes, predictions for the newly-christened Volvo Polestar Racing (or Valvoline Racing GRM, as it will be called by the team in their marketing efforts) have been all over the place. The best predictor to follow will likely be the performances of the Nissan teams and Erebus Motorsport from a season ago; both teams were in identical situations then (regarding a new car manufacturer) that GRM will be in this season.

While their aspirations will eventually be to be one of the top teams in the Championship (something that Holden couldn’t offer GRM, hence why they made the switch to Volvo in the first place), the most important thing for the team will be to simply finish their races without any issues. In particular, they need to make sure that they limit the mechanical issues that tend to often befall new manufacturers; they hit both the Nissan and the Erebus teams a season ago in Adelaide. If they can do that, the speed should be there for the Volvos to put in some strong performances in 2014.

In a worst case scenario, they fall from grace much like SBR did in their switch to Erebus last season; in the best case, they match (maybe even outperform) what they accomplished with the Fujitsu Holdens in 2013. The smart money will be on the latter though, because unlike Erebus, the management has not changed, and Garry Rogers is one of the most knowledgeable owners in the series. At the end of the day, Scott McLaughlin should continue to his rise as one of the top V8 Supercars drivers for the future (along with Chaz Mostert), Robert Dahlgren should turn more heads than expected, and the battle for fifth place between Volvo Polestar Racing, the two Nissan teams, the Holden Racing Team, and even the Erebus Motorsport cars should be one of the best that the series has to offer this season.

For more information on the team, visit their website at www.grmotorsport.com.au/.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.