Why an ambitious Holden squad must sign Mostert for 2020
For the good of both its own lofty ambitions, and Supercars itself, Walkinshaw Andretti United should do everything it can to sign off-contract superstar Chaz Mostert for 2020.
In what's going to be a busy silly season, Mostert is the big fish. And while it seemed for so long that DJR Team Penske was going to land him, the impending re-signing of Fabian Coulthard at the Shell-backed squad has re-shaped the market.
With Coulthard set to stay put, it would appear that things have changed between DJRTP and Mostert.
He could still land there if Scott McLaughlin were to be US-bound for 2020, but if that really was on the cards, it would make more sense for Penske to be locking in Mostert, rather than fuelling speculation that he's still on the market with a Coulthard contract extension.
So, if not DJR Team Penske, what does Mostert do for 2020? A simple single-year Tickford deal? Or make a radical longer-term switch to an ambitious dark horse?
Walkinshaw Andretti United is understood to be pushing for the latter. And so it should be.
The suggestion that WAU needs a driver like Mostert in its line-up is in no way a slight on James Courtney and/or Scott Pye.
Courtney is a deserving series champion, Pye is a deserving race winner. Neither are mugs.
They are, however, both pre-WAU signings. They are part of a system that isn't in the habit of regularly challenging for race wins and fighting for titles. Both would argue they would be winners in a winning car, and both are probably right.
But WAU doesn't have a winning package right now. And sometimes it takes an A-Grader with a fresh set of eyes to come in and really make the difference.
Scott McLaughlin joining DJR Team Penske is a perfect example. Following the Penske buy-in at the end of 2014 all of the ingredients were there for a front-running team. But it took signing McLaughlin (and, of course, Ludo Lacroix) for 2017 for it all to come together.
Even without the magic of Ludo, there's no doubt in my mind that Scotty alone would have helped that team take the next step. He brought new enthusiasm. He brought new confidence, because it was this team that he was banking his Supercars future on.
And he brought speed. Lot's of it. There's no more excuses when you've got a guy like that in the car. He's getting the most out of it. If you're not winning, you've got problems to solve. Simple as that.
Podium: third place Chaz Mostert, Tickford Racing Ford
Photo by: Tickford
If WAU wants to be a Supercars powerhouse, it needs the same re-invigeration. And Mostert is the perfect driver to provide it.
It would be a career-defining move for Mostert as well. He too would be getting a fresh start, and like McLaughlin he'd arrive as an undisputed number one, ready to have a team built around him.
He's had a taste of team leadership at Tickford over the past couple of seasons, but there'd be a new level of responsibility that would come from a switch to ambitious two-car team like WAU.
He'd also keep his overseas options open. Michael Andretti and Zak Brown have fingers in many pies all over the world. Mostert clearly enjoys his BMW GT programme, and teaming up with an international alliance could facilitate plenty more of that in the future.
The biggest winner would be the sport. Mostert and McLaughlin at DJRTP next season may he generated some internal fireworks, but if you're bored of seeing red-and-yellow Mustangs winning now, it would have been a whole lot worse in 2020.
Mostert teaming up with WAU, however, would increase the number of cars and teams able to fight for race wins. Maybe not straight away in 2020, but in the medium-term.
So, could it actually happen? The short answer is yes. Ryan Walkinshaw has been cagey about his 2020 driver line-up since Motorsport.com tried to prod him on it way back in March, and even in Darwin last weekend he played a straight, non-committal bat when questioned about next season.
"We've got a pretty strict policy that we don't talk about that sort of thing," he said during the team bosses press conference.
"We don't talk about sponsor negotiations, we don't talk about driver negotiations. It's unfair on the drivers that we have and it's also unfair to any driver that we may be talking to."
The sticking point may well be Mostert's willingness to expose himself to the risk of a short-term performance deficit, particularly with Tickford's Mustang-led resurgence this year. Making the move would require a leap of faith. He'd be banking on WAU making good on its lofty goals.
Is it a gamble? Absolutely. But for a larrikin like Chaz, there may be something appealing about the road less traveled.
So don't rule it out.
Scott Pye, Walkinshaw Andretti United Holden
Photo by: Dirk Klynsmith / LAT Images
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