by Matthew Agius

The oldest team in Australian Touring Car Racing, Dick Johnson Racing, has launched their fresh-look cars, new sponsors, and drivers for the squad's 2006 V8 Supercar campaign.

Joining the team as major sponsors for the 2006 season are its founder's new business ventures. Team owner Dick Johnson's new home loans company, the First Rock Mortgage Centre, and his new telecommunications company, V8 Telecom.

The move to have DJR supported in a naming-rights capacity by his two businesses has been speculated about for some time, but indeed, the choice to have each company separately branded on the team's cars was relatively unknown. Steven Johnson's #17 Ford Falcon will bear First Rock signage, whilst V8 Telecom will be portrayed across Will Davison's #18 machine.

A sponsorship campaign reminiscent of Craig Gore's Wright Patton Shakespeare Financial sponsorship of his team from 2004, this new support has seen two vibrant looking DJR Ford Falcons prepared for the 2006 championship.

However in a first for the V8 Supercar series, Dick Johnson Racing has revealed a new partnership with world-renowned entertainment company, Warner Brothers, and more specifically the filmmaker's Consumer Products division, meaning the use of the Flintstones and several Wacky Racers characters on the #17 and #18 Falcons and also in a merchandising line.

The sweeping new changes at Dick Johnson Racing of course have the full support of Team founder and owner of First Rock and V8 Telecom, Dick Johnson, but the reasons to why the multiple Australian Touring Car Champion would be unsurprising to some.

"When I looked into it I couldn't believe how much we were all being ripped off," said Johnson of other telecommunication companies, "It didn't take us long to figure out we could give everyone a fair deal and V8 Telecom was born.

"Although today is officially the launch V8 Telecom has actually been in operation for some time, and we have delighted with the take-up of our services in such a short period of time.

"I guess that's because what V8 Telecom is about is reducing the cost of communications and making things easier and less complicated for our customers. By entering into strategic partnerships V8 Telecom has negotiated wholesale rates with a number of networks so that we can pass those savings on to our customers."

FirstRock Home Loans was such named as a reference to the infamous rock at Bathurst in 1980, which Dick Johnson smashed into whilst leading the race. The public of Australia and Ford then pledged their support to Johnson to help him make the grid for the preceding year's championship and now Johnson wishes to repay the faith of some twenty-five years ago.

"Every Australian dreams of owning their own home, and that's something that FirstRock can help everyone achieve," he continued.

"With the banks no longer dictating how the home loan market works, organisations like FirstRock now have the opportunity to offer everyone much more competitive rates on home financing.

"I have never forgotten the generosity of ordinary Australians that day and have always tried to repay that support, and I see FirstRock as another of those opportunities. When I looked into the home loan market, I was amazed at how much profit the banks were creaming off all of us and I thought 'there must be a better way,' that's why we've created FirstRock."

However a race team is nothing without its drivers, and 2006 sees the arrival of Will Davison to the fold at the Stayplton based team. He will join regular driver Steven Johnson at the team and will hope to benefit from the increased budget and potential that DJR has for the 2006 championship.

Set to compete in his first full year of V8 Supercar racing, Davison has set himself the goal of beating his more experienced teammate.

"Over the last several seasons the results have gone the way of car seventeen and not eighteen; the goal is to turn this around," said Davison.

"I think a team is stronger when both of its drivers are putting pressure on one another. The first competitive goal is to beat Steve (Johnson). Steve has, overall, been the stronger qualifier and the higher finishing driver at DJR over the last four or five years. I want to change this next year. Where both great mates, but I'm sure he wants to beat me as much as I want to beat him."

However his team-mate is not to be discounted. Since his first round win at Canberra in 2001, Johnson has been unable to find the top step of the podium, however he believes his racing experience and pressure from his naturally talented teammate could help him to deliver podium results to DJR in 2006.

"I'm looking forward to 2006, more than any other year, it could be quite a battle," said Steven Johnson.

"Nothing beats tough opposition and competition within a team and Will is fast, no doubt, but he's inexperienced; he's only got a few V8 races to his name. There have only been a few drivers, in history, that have entered the sport and set the track on fire, hopefully Will can do that... but experience matters.

"I firmly believe that the team changes announced today and the hiring of Will Davison will project us up the championship table, both Glenn (Seton) and I were in the top fifteen this year, but we should have been in the top ten.

"The aim is to further improve our competitive racing package and be more consistent next year - I think that 2006 can be one of DJR's strongest seasons in years."

With the foundations laid for 2006, and with the potential of the 2005 championship pushing its cause, Dick Johnson Racing could be a force to be reckoned with. A vibrant new red and black livery on the team's two BA Falcons will help the team to standout at all thirteen championship rounds, and new partnerships with FirstRock, V8 Telecom and Warner Brothers will provide the budget and promotional benefits that Dick Johnson Racing needs to get back to the front of the grid.

FirstRock and V8 Telecom will first debut in the V8 Supercar Championship at the opening round of the 2006 series, the Clipsal 500 Adelaide, from March 23-26.