The Volvo mission remains a proud moment for Garry Rogers, who praised his team’s dedication to the project.
On Friday, it was announced that Garry Rogers Motorsport will leave Supercars at the end of the 2019 season. A mainstay on the grid since 1996, GRM competed in its 317th championship round in Bathurst last weekend.
Having run Commodores from day dot, Rogers struck a deal with Volvo in 2013, with the Swedish manufacturer’s performance arm Polestar also buying into the programme.
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Boosted by factory support, the Volvo programme hit the ground running on the model’s debut in Adelaide, with a then 20-year-old Scott McLaughlin fending off reigning series champion Jamie Whincup to seal a brilliant podium finish.
McLaughlin would win in Perth, Sydney and Phillip Island that year, and after a tough 2015, finished third in the 2016 standings in a year which included a clean sweep at Phillip Island, and a near-miss at Bathurst.
The Volvo S60, in recognisable cyan, proved a hit as time went by, with McLaughlin firming as one of the sport’s key personalities.
Driving the development of the S60 package proved a big task for GRM, but it was one Rogers was proud of, standing it alongside the team’s incredible Bathurst win in 2000 as a key achievement.
“I think the highlights to me were obviously our Bathurst win in 2000 [with Garth Tander and Jason Bargwanna] and then I probably think the Volvo programme,” said Rogers.
“Certainly Scotty’s lap with Whincup at Adelaide … the Volvo situation highlighted to me that we really had the right equipment, the right people, the right premises, and we were able to manoeuvre what we needed to do to get things to work the majority of the time.
“Not always with great success, but in most cases, with good success, and being proud of what we did.
“The Volvo thing really exemplified to me that the people here were really good at what they did. They were able to design things, engineers make things, computers, I know all that, it’s not my forte but we were able to do all that, not only to design it, but get it to work.
“It wasn’t without its obstacles. If you think back, there were a lot of things that came into play with the regulations. No one liked the car, we couldn’t this, we couldn’t that — but anyway, we persevered and we got it done.”
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Rogers explained how the introduction of the ZB Commodore triggered a switch in focus for his team in the years after the Volvo exit.
The stint running Volvos proved a highlight for the sport, adding to the team’s profile and history. However, returning to Holden meant building two new VF Commodores, but from 2018, the ZB model — which was developed and homologated by Triple Eight — proved a sticking point with GRM, which was responsible for front splitter distribution.
“When Volvo exited and weren’t here anymore … we went back to the Commodore programme and we were able to do that utilising our own resources and our own people,” explained the 74-year-old.
“We didn’t really have to do much, other than hard work.
“But then when the introduction of the ZB Commodore came along, things became different.
“The homologation system then went to Triple Eight, there became specifications of where you could and couldn’t buy your goods, could you use your own people?
“You could only do it to a certain extent, so really, we had to then decide what we were going to do.
“Really, I suppose, to make sure we utilised the staff and the people and premises we had to find some extra work.”
Last weekend, it was revealed that current naming rights backer Boost Mobile threatened to pull out of the sport unless a control upright component was introduced. After years of turbulence regarding sponsor changes and manufacturer switches, GRM had little option but to leave the category it joined in 1996.
GRM will hand back its two Racing Entitlements Contracts and will turn to its TCR programme, as well as the S5000 series it helped develop the car for.
The team subsequently withdrew from Supercars due to a lack of sponsor commitment from 2020, having already seen a four-year partnership with Wilson Security end ahead of the 2019 season following the exit of long-time boss John McMellan.
Rising costs in Supercars made it difficult for Rogers to justify remaining in the category.
“We won’t be renewing our franchises. It’s been thought about, people have been wondering what we were doing, what we weren’t doing,” Rogers said.
“I went to Supercars, and requested an extension of a week or two, to perhaps put a business plan together where we could stay in the Supercars business, but they rejected that.
“The Supercars business to me, I do it because I love doing it. It’s not a big financial gain of any kind.
“We make some money some years, we lose some money some years. But I enjoy it because of the people I do it with.”