Howard steps out of the drivers seat but continues to foster young talent

After six years in the V8 Supercar Development Series seasoned driver Mark Howard will hang up his helmet and retire from racing following next weekend's round of the V8 Supercar Fujitsu Series at Phillip Island.

In October, Howard created a place for himself in the V8 Supercar record books when he became the only driver in the history of the Fujitsu Series to clock up 40 round starts.

He is also one of the most successful Team Principals in the paddock with his outfit Howard Racing the only team to secure seven round victories in succession with Adam Macrow behind the wheel in 2005/2006.

While Howard will be stepping out of the car he has promised to remain the figurehead of Howard Racing which will now turn its focus to the nurturing of young, up-and-coming talent.

As part of the team's ongoing quest to foster young drivers Howard Racing will expand its racing program to include Formula Ford and will look to run one young candidate for the entire National Formula Ford season.

Howard has always had a view of creating a path from go-karts to V8 Supercars and says this is the next step in building that program.

"It will certainly be a sad occasion next weekend and after so many years in the sport it will be weird to not turn up to the grid and strap on the helmet and get into the car," Howard said.

"I have really enjoyed my time behind the wheel and I look forward to maintaining my involvement in the sport as I take a more of a hands on role in helping younger drivers make their way through the ranks."

One such driver who will be benefiting from Howard's experience in the Fujitsu V8 Supercar Series is Shannon O'Brien who will join the team as a guest driver at Phillip Island with the option of extending his association with the sport next year.

"Shannon [O'Brien] has already tested with the team and over the course of a few hours showed some great potential which is a great starting point," Howard said.

"We look forward to having him join the team for Phillip Island and building upon the successes he has achieved in his own car to date."

O'Brien recently tested the Howard Racing Falcon at Queensland Raceway and quickly became familiar with the team and the race car.

"The test day went really well and I was very happy with how it all went," O'Brien said.

"We're aiming for the best result possible at Phillip Island and know that with Howard Racing we have the equipment to give it our best shot."

Adam Sharpe will once again return from overseas duty for the final round of the 2007 Fujitsu V8 Supercar Championship where he hopes to record a solid finish to cap off a frantic year which included competing in both Australia and the United Kingdom.

-credit: howard/fluidpr.com.au