IT’S pretty clear that Chaz Mostert holds all the keys in the current Supercars silly-season.
Arguably one of the top five ‘brands’ within the championship, what Mostert decides to do with his 2020 plans will set of a domino effect throughout the remainder of the paddock which could result in a vastly different looking grid for next season.
After a switch to DJR Team Penske was kyboshed by the re-signing of both Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard by that team, local media and paddock gossip are now fixated on a potential move to Walkinshaw Andretti United for next season.
Which begs the next obvious question: Why go there?
On results and speed, Tickford are either the second, third, or fourth best team in the championship at the moment – right in the thick of a competitive fight with Penrite Erebus Racing and the Red Bull Holden Racing team for ‘best of the rest’ behind the pair of Red Mustangs.
He’s one of only two drivers not in a Shell Ford to win a race this year and he’s part of a four-car squad that currently has all four of its cars within the top-10 of the championship which is no mean feat.
So why would you leave that? Let’s look at the pro’s and cons.
Perhaps the biggest plus in the ‘Pro’ column is the fact that a switch to the Holden team opens up a world – quite literally – of opportunity for Chaz.
In recent years he’s made a name for himself outside of Supercars racing as a GT3 gun-for-hire, mainly with BMW, who have made no secret about the fact that they love him, and would love him to do more. His performances at the Bathurst 12 Hour have been memorable but he’s also moonlighted with the brand at Daytona and other key races around the world.
Outside of a continued presence within Supercars, paddock gossip has included rumours that there’s an offer on the table from the German brand to go and race for them full-time next year.
But a big-dollar offer from WAU to stay in Supercars brings with it the ‘AU’ part of the team name, as in ‘Andretti’ and ‘United’.
Outside of their successful IndyCar squad, Michael Andretti’s outfit is active in a host of other series; including RallyCross and Formula E. Though not presently active in Sports Car racing, there’s a better than even chance that at some point they’ll return to active competition in either IMSA or SRO America competition, or perhaps both.
Having a versatile chap like Chaz Mostert in your squad would be handy to draft in for the big races there.
Zak Brown’s United Autosports, of course, is heavily involved in endurance racing on both sides of the Atlantic with programs in GT3 racing and Le Mans series competition, both with success.
There’s also the significant rider that Brown is also CEO of McLaren Racing as well and with rumours of a return to the Le Mans 24-hour on the cards, that could be a tasty connection for Mostert to engineer.
Other pros? Most generally assume that WAU probably has deeper purse strings on which to pull than Tickford, meaning a pay rise would likely be on offer.
Then there’s the element of building a team around you.
Tickford has basically been Mostert’s full-time Supercars home since his career began – he’s never really known another environment.
There may well be significant motivation to mix things up and have an opportunity to build an organisation around him in new surroundings, rather than retaining the status quo and comfortable surroundings.
The biggest downside to a shift to WAU, if that is in fact where Mostert is headed, is performance.
After positive signs last year – Scott Pye won a race in Melbourne and then the team finished second at Bathurst – the team appears to have regressed this season. Neither driver has troubled the podium at the half-way point of the series, with Courtney 13th in points and Pye further back in 16th.
It’s a concern for a once-mighty team that recorded their last major victory in 2016, at the Sandown 500.
Tickford have enjoyed a strong season so far with their performance improvement not just linked to the introduction of the Mustang; Engineering changes and development clearly improving their technical performance as well as having a slippery new race car.
Assuming they can continue to progress there’s no reason to not expect the Melbourne team to continue to regularly challenge the Shell Fords for victories when things go right – and be ‘best of the rest’ when they do not.
Walkinshaw Andretti United, meanwhile, seems a very long way from that at the moment.
Ultimately, only Chaz Mostert and his closest advisors know the state of play but it’s clear that there are multiple factors involved that make it a complex decision. And until he, or someone in either team speaks – which we know they won’t – we’ve got no idea just what is on the table.
Stay with the devil you know, or see if the grass is greener on the other side?
What would you do?