Supercars star Will Davison spoke to Motorsport.com about the last-minute 23Red Racing deal that saved his spot on the grid for 2018.
Davison went genuinely close to missing out on a full-time drive for 2018, the two-time Bathurst 1000 winner seemingly destined for an enduro seat as the silly season shook out.
However a decision to phone up Phil Munday, the man behind the restructuring and rebranding of the backmarker LD Motorsport squad as 23Red Racing, saved his spot on the grid.
Davison is now set to race an ex-Prodrive Ford for the single-car team next season, and as he told Motorsport.com, he's targeting the classy end of the grid.
MOTORSPORT.COM: Tell us how this 23Red deal all came about.
WILL DAVISON: It's been the most simple deal I've ever done, to be honest.
It's been a tough season with a lot of uncertainty, and there's been a lot of balls in the air for the last couple of months. It's been a tricky period for me trying to do a deal. There was interest out there, people wanting to put deals together, but a few things fell over which is pretty shattering.
I didn't know much about the 23Red Racing deal until quite late in the piece. It's been hard with a lot of drivers with some pretty big sponsorship packages, which makes it tricky when you're dealing with the smaller teams. It's not easy to compete against that, particularly when you're not having a good season.
There was a period there where it was all a bit stressful, but in the end it came together very quickly. I ended up just speaking to Phil and Lucas [Dumbrell] myself the day before I got on the plane to Newcastle, and as I was getting on the plane it all came together, literally in one phone conversation.
I'm excited about their vision and what the team is all about, and I'm grateful for the opportunity they've given me to stay in the game. They're doing it properly. Phil's made a big commitment, and they don't want to take any shortcuts. They heard what I was all about and what the deal means for me personally, and as I said, it all came together very quickly.
There's a bit of work to do, but all the ingredients are there. We're going to say less and hopefully over deliver.
I'm excited about the potential, and excited to still be in the category to be honest. I was a bit nervous for a while. I didn't feel like my time is done in the sport, but that's the game we're in. When you're on a wave with momentum and perception, it's a beautiful thing... but it can turn very quick on you. I've had one of those years. It's only my second in 12 years in the sport, and I turned it around the first time after 2010, and I still feel like the fire has the fuel to do it again.
There are uncertainty's with a start-up team, but I've gone with my gut. I just want to get back to enjoying my racing. It's amazing how quick your mindset can change.
There's an element of rolling the dice here, because as LD Motorsport the team has struggled in the past. Is it a case of it just being worth the risk to give it a go?
Absolutely. I've got nothing to lose, to be honest. I'm proud of what I've achieved in my career, but I'm disappointed with some years and I take it to heart.
I've got a lot to give. I'm not interested in excuses; I can't be bothered with them and I don't have time for them. I just care about getting results.
So, yeah, I had nothing to lose. At the end of the day... a lot of the other options had fallen over. I hadn't spoken to Phil, and I'm so glad I picked up the phone and gave him a call. It just felt right straight away. It was our first conversation, and it was done in 10 minutes. That's how it should be, it's very refreshing. I've had other deals with bigger teams drag on for months and months, and this was 10 minutes and one phone call.
I wouldn't have done it just to stay on the grid. I want to be competitive, and I also want to be valued and enjoy working in a team with people who are motivated to go racing and enjoy racing. That's the sense I get from Phil.
Paddock chatter suggests that if you'd not got a full-time deal, you had some pretty tasty enduro drive options up your sleeve. That process must have been at least a little bit flattering...
Yeah of course. It's never something that's crossed my mind much. It seems like yesterday I was going into the last round challenging for championships, and I was on the top step at Bathurst last year.
Naturally I had some brief conversations with some people, and once word got out I got a lot of phone calls. I was very thankful for those conversations, but my mind hadn't accepted that yet. I'm a realist, and I won't lie – there were moments over the last few weeks when it was a bit scary, because I thought it was coming to that.
But then you start really thinking about it, and at the end of the day, like anything in life, change can be scary, but once you make the change it opens up a whole new world of happiness.
You'd be amazed at who I was on the phone to, and what options I had to fill my year next year. It was always my number one priority to stay in Supercars, and that's come about. But from the brief conversations I had there was some cool stuff as an enduro driver, and other things not only here but overseas. It was an interesting period.
It's nice to know all that will be here post-career. And if that's in two or three years, I'll be mentally prepared for that, to go and be a co-driver against the new young hot shots. We'd all love an extra shot at winning the Peter Brock Trophy as a co-driver, that's something I love to think I've got ahead of me.
But I still think I deserve to be one of the top guys out here. It's only one bad year.
You mentioned overdelivering rather than talking things up; does that mean you're keeping your expectations to yourself? Surely you'll be targeting Top 10s...
Absolutely. I know starting up a new team, getting new people, getting relationships to mesh; these things take a bit of time. But having said that, I'm very experienced, and we'll have a good car.
To win races and be a championship contender in the sport right not isn't about one fast lap, there are so many elements; strategy, managing race weekends, managing the team structure, minimising mistakes... it's a cutthroat game, it's full on.
Putting all that together might take some time, but we've got all the ingredients. I'm not making any bold statements, but I wouldn't be going racing for anything less than to be contenders. We'd like to think we'll certainly be challenging to be in the Top 10 straight out the gate, and then looking at podiums next year. That's very realistic, and it's what we're gunning for.