HRT Given a 14 day deadline
Stay of execution for V8 series icon
By Ray Kershler
February 27, 2007 12:00
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THE Holden Racing Team has been cleared to take part in this week's opening round of the V8 Supercar championship Â¿ but the threat of expulsion from the series still hangs over the head of Australia's most famous motorsport team.
HRT was yesterday given a 14-day deadline to satisfy racing authorities about ownership issues or be booted out of the championship.
A hardline stance taken by V8 authority TEGA, which polices the teams, has softened – largely because of the ramifications involved in expelling one of the sport's most celebrated players.
A week of legal negotiations between HRT and TEGA, during which there was almost daily ultimatums imposed on the team, came to a climax yesterday.
Hardliners wanted HRT expelled immediately for having "failed to respond in any way appropriately" to questions about the actual ownership of the team.
However a majority favoured a softer approach given the implications for this week's Clipsal 500 in Adelaide, the future of drivers Mark Skaife and Todd Kelly and, ultimately, the future of the team.
HRT, with its prominent red colour, has been part of the nation's major motor racing championship since 1988.
The team is the official Holden factory team for the V8 championship and is the most successful motor racing team in Australia having won six overall championships and the Bathurst classic five times.
Again this season HRT is expected to be a powerful player after somewhat modest achievements last year.
Kelly and Skaife were yesterday installed as third and fourth favourites in the championship by TABsportsbet bookmakers, behind Ford driver Craig Lowndes and another Holden driver, Garth Tander.
At the heart of the controversy is the 12-month debate about team ownership. Holden maintains Skaife has been the owner since 2003.
TEGA maintains there is a "third party" involved, with the constant suggestion that third party is the powerful Holden personality Tom Walkinshaw, who re-emerged at the start of the 2006 season.
Under TEGA rules any changes of ownership of V8 Supercar teams, part or whole, must be notified.
Insiders say Holden has supplied ownership papers to TEGA. But the authority has rejected them as being "short on detail" or "of no substance".
Yesterday frustrated TEGA officials let Holden loose on a long rein. Two weeks, they said. Or that's it. Two weeks to prove Mark Skaife owns HRT and there are "no other unapproved ownership or control issues".
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