The familiar cyan blue of Volvo’s Polestar performance division won’t be seen on the starting grid of the 2017 Australian Supercar Championship, with the Swedish company confirming it will not renew its current commitment when it expires at the end of this year.
Announced overnight, the move to exit the series – currently known as the V8 Supercar Championship – comes on the back of a three-year deal with Garry Rogers Motorsport (GRM) that has so far brought seven race victories, 17 podium finishes, 17 pole positions and seven fastest laps.
The outfit is currently ranked fourth in the teams’ championship and second in the drivers’ championship, after 15 rounds of the 2016 season and at the end of a double victory at Phillip Island for driver Scott McLaughlin.
Despite this strong position, Polestar chief operating officer Niels Möller said today that new strategy and business goals will see it refocus on other technologies and championships overseas.
”We will of course support the programme in order to achieve the best possible sporting results in 2016, however, we feel it is fair to all involved that we can provide a heads-up ahead of 2017 as early as possible,” Möller said.
“We would like to extend our gratitude to all involved parties in the programme and wish them the very best for the future.”
Speaking with CarAdvice today, Volvo Cars Australia communications manager Greg Bosnich said the decision was a global one.
“We have established some excellent partnerships, but, ultimately, this was a global decision. And, yes, there is always going to be personal points of view and from that perspective it’s disappointing,” Bosnich said.
He added that although the V8 Supercars Championship was not Volvo’s main marketing commitment in Australia, it was “a contributing factor” in bringing new people to the brand.
“Lots of people are aware of the brand, now, there’s a lot of talk about Volvo. We always try to attract new buyers,” Bosnich said.
The brand has also helped to improve the Championship’s exposure to new audiences, too: “We understand that around 60 per cent of buying decisions are made by women, but less than 30 per cent turn up to races. We brought more families to rounds, and that’s good because we’re a family brand.”
He added that the company remains focussed on the 2016 season.
Earlier in 2014, former Volvo Cars Australia managing director Matt Braid – now the commercial director for V8 Supercars itself – told CarAdvice that customer enquiries with the brand had doubled since joining the series.
Speaking for his father’s team today, Garry Rogers Motorsport’s Barry Rogers told CarAdvice that the outfit will give all of its attention to this weekend’s round before reviewing future plans.
“We are heading to Perth this weekend placed second in the Championship and at this immediate time our focus is to do everything possible to achieve a result for both Scott and James, our loyal sponsor group and of course our Team,” Rogers said.
“Decisions of ownership and so on will be addressed in due course, but we are not going to let these matters distract our immediate aims.”
This is not the first time that Volvo’s involvement in motorsport has been in doubt, with the company outright declaring in 2014 that it would exit all forms of racing.
“Motorsport does not conform with our brand, where we stand for smaller engines and safety,” Volvo’s international marketing chief Alain Visser told Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri in December, 2014.
The company has stepped back from that position, however, with its Polestar division this year campaigning in the FIA World Touring Car Championship.
It also has an ongoing commitment in the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship, despite Visser confirming the company would exit that series “as soon as the contract permits”. At that time, its contractual obligation was scheduled to expire at the end of 2015.
V8 Supercars CEO James Warburton said on the championship’s website today that the announcement from Polestar was “disappointing”, given positive discussions that had previously been ongoing with the local Volvo arm about commitment to the expanded ‘Gen2’ series that will kick off next year.
“However we understand that ultimately this was a global decision. We have really enjoyed the association with Volvo and the success they have enjoyed in Supercars,” Warburton said.