HRT set to dominate 2008 series.

By Matthew Agius

Holden has stacked all of its eggs in one basket for the 2008 V8 Supercar Championship Series, and looks set to conquer the championship with two of the biggest names in Australian motor racing.

By Matthew Agius

Holden has stacked all of its eggs in one basket for the 2008 V8 Supercar Championship Series, and looks set to conquer the championship with two of the biggest names in Australian motor racing.

Friday December 7 2007 will go down as one of the most important dates in the history of V8 Supercar racing.

In just a matter of days, three of Holden's loyal names relocated to other teams, in moves that will appear likely to affect the racing futures of the Holden Racing Team and Toll HSV Dealer Team in dramatically different ways.

The first move to be announced was Todd Kelly's departure from the Holden Racing Team.

Despite winning the final round of the 2007 series, which assisted Garth Tander in securing his inaugural V8 title, Kelly appeared on the outer of the flagship Holden team since late October, when rumours first surfaced concerning his status at the team.

Moving to Jack Daniel's Racing, a lower-order but highly experienced Holden operation, Kelly's move is bitter-sweet.

It sees him leave the most prestigious outfit in the race paddock - one with a string of championships and Bathurst victories to its name - and head to a team that finished second to last in the 2007 Teams' Championship.

There are positives for Kelly though. He is set, for the first time in ten years, to drive for a team outside of the Clayton base of Walkinshaw Performance, the organisation that operated his previous three teams - the Holden Young Lions, Kmart Racing and the HRT.

It will also be the first time that Kelly will race as the lead driver of a major V8 Supercar operation. Having played number-two to Greg Murphy at Kmart Racing, and Mark Skaife at the Holden Racing Team, Kelly will lead up-and-coming youngster, Shane Price, at JDR.

So whilst Kelly may be disappointed to leave 'Team Red', he now has a whole new future in touring car racing at his feet.

The second rumour to be confirmed this morning was that of Garth Tander joining the Holden Racing Team for 2008 and beyond.

This appears to be a carefully orchestrated move from Holden and Walkinshaw Performance, to ensure the profile of the Holden Racing Team is lifted to the fore of V8 racing.

For the past several seasons, the HRT has been dogged by poor performances in comparison to its sister operation, the Toll HSV Dealer Team.

After escaping the Stone Brothers Racing dominance of the championship with its profile relatively intact, a double championship win to the Toll HSV squad saw a shift in the media spotlight, away from the former darlings of Holden's V8 Supercar operation.

With Tander's move confirmed, Holden and Walkinshaw Performance have ensured that the HRT will return to the fore of V8 Supercars as of the Clipsal 500 Adelaide in late February.

It will be the first time since 2002 that the team has run both the #1 and #2 competition numbers, and will have Tander and Mark Skaife, two of the three biggest names in the series (the other being Craig Lowndes) driving for 'Team Red'.

If the driving talent on offer at the HRT was not enough, the vast ability of the two other movers from Toll HSV to the Holden Racing Team almost certainly ensures that the team will lead the General's charge in 2008.

Former Toll HSVDT manager, Rob Crawford, who orchestrated the team's past two title wins, and Tander's race engineer, Matt Nilsson, will join the Holden Racing Team in the same capacities they filled at the sister outfit.

Team stability is regarded as a key component in winning a championship, and whilst Tander joins the Holden Racing Team replacing a driver who worked at the squad for half a decade, the resources that he brings with him ensures a relatively smooth transition into the #1 red car.

Changing to a completely different team with your old engineer can prove successful - simply look at Jason Bright's defection to Ford in 2005 with Phil Keed.

Despite changing manufacturers, Bright was contesting race wins by year's end, so for Tander to simply move to a different part of Walkinshaw Performance, he should have very few problems confronting his title defence.

If the Holden Racing Team was playing the Toll HSV Dealer Team in a game of poker for the 2008 championship, 'Team Red' was today dealt a straight flush, whilst the double Teams' Champions were handed very little to bluff with.

The pillage of the Toll HSV Dealer Team will leave the reigning champions walking wounded into the 2008 title fight - their main man is gone, along with a star engineer and the best team manager in pit lane.

Paul Dumbrell was given a new home from the defunct Supercheap Auto Racing, and will fill Tander's large shoes in 2008.

Dumbrell is a solid performer - but his move to Supercheap Auto Racing this year did his credentials no favours, as he struggled with an underdeveloped and ill-performing car.

He will partner Rick Kelly, who continues to drive for the team, and will regain the mantle of number-one status in the team.

He faces a daunting task of trying to defend the team's recent successes against a HRT super team.

If Holden and Walkinshaw Performance are moving to resurrect the Holden Racing Team, then it would be likely that all of the 'go-fast bits' will head to Team Red before the Black and Orange cars of the John Kelly owned Toll HSV operation.

The truest indicator of the early difference between the two teams will come at the Clipsal 500 Adelaide in February, and whilst it is entirely likely that both teams will be circulating in the top ten next year, it appears as though the tables have turned on the Toll HSV Dealer Team, and that two red cars that stopped winning championships in 2003, will be title favourites in 2008.

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