Mobil1’s relationship with Walkinshaw Andretti United stretches back almost 30 years, but it’s presence is more than just a sticker on a race car, it’s a critical technical relationship that advantages both parties.
Walkinshaw Andretti United (WAU) – a three-way partnership between Walkinshaw Racing in Australia, Andretti Autosport in the US and United Autosports in Europe – is one of Australian motorsport’s most enduring teams.
Competing in the Supercars Championship, you could be forgiven for not recognising WAU, but its original name, Holden Racing Team (HRT), is one of the biggest brands in domestic sport. Even those that don’t follow motorsport recognise HRT.
HRT has won the Bathurst 1000 seven times and enjoyed six championship wins – plus a further two with the HSV Dealer team. Drivers like Peter Brock, Craig Lowndes, Mark Skaife and current Bathurst champion Garth Tander are synonymous with HRT/WAU, and in 2020 Chaz Mostert and Bryce Fullwood were still winning races for the outfit.
Since 1994, Mobil1 has been one of WAU’s most important sponsors. In fact, Mobil1 is synonymous with WAU, as is the famous Mobil1 logo on the bonnet of every one of its Holden Commodores.
Like most companies that invest in motorsport, Mobil1 uses the Supercars and WAU platforms to create brand awareness, but it’s more than a simple sporting relationship, it’s a true partnership.
“The partnership between WAU and Mobil1 continually evolves, what we do now with Mobil is very different, both on and off track, compared to where we started,” WAU team principal Bruce Stewart said.
“We partner with Mobil to get the best performance out of our cars and to give our drivers the best opportunity to enjoy success. We then use that success to help resonate the Mobil 1 brand with their retail distributors and for industrial uses.”
ExxonMobil – the parent company behind Mobil1 – uses WAU and its involvement in the Supercars Championship to showcase the technology of its products.
“It’s about delivering results that prove the performance of the product, and motorsport will quickly call you out if your technology is inferior,” ExxonMobil general manager engineering services, Paul Foster said.
Supercars is a high stress and high-performance environment from an engine oil point of view.
“The analysis we do on the engine oils, and the results we collate over time, all roll up into our global R&D programs supporting further development of these products for future needs,” Paul Foster said.
“(The sport) enables the Mobil brand to have a local example of how our products perform in Australia’s premier motorsport category and how they can translate to on-the-road experiences.”
It would be easy to think that the partnership is a one-way street in terms of benefit. Mobil1 utilises WAU and the highly competitive Supercars series to test, analyse and improve its oils for superior standard road use, but WAU is getting just as much advantage from the relationship.
The technical support that Mobil offers WAU is impressive. It has a dedicated team that pays particular attention to all aspects of the relationship, from engineering and technical service through to in-depth forensic analysis.
WAU has access to the global Mobil Motorsport Technical Team which also supports its Formula 1, Porsche, Le Mans and NASCAR interests. This support is accessible year-round, but where the relationship really pays dividends is at the annual Formula One event in Melbourne.
“We have access to a lot of the Mobil technicians who travel with Formula One,” WAU technical director Carl Faux said.
“This allows us to reset every March, thanks to the regular contact that we enjoy, to discuss the product, plus changes and challenges that we may have with different parts of the car. It’s a technical partnership in every sense.”
With a mobile testing facility based at the Albert Park track, and the key technical executives available, WAU takes advantage of the annual opportunity.
“We talk about the challenges, we might have a new path component or an area of the car that might be outside the engine that needs attention, and we also focus on the lubrication opportunities,” said Bruce Stewart.
Last year, Supercars introduced a new Xtrac gearbox. It was very different from what had been used before and required a particular oil type – which was not Mobil1.
This is where the partnership with Mobil yields impressive results. At the track, WAU gave Mobil some oil samples so they could determine the materials within the oil and its composition. Questions can also be asked: Has it decomposed? Is any metal – emanating from the bearings – present?
“Having that expertise available to us with a brand-new product is brilliant,” Carl Faux said.
“We gave them some of the samples of the new oil we were running, and we gave them samples of oil that we have run in the past for them to do some analysis on.
“Remember, it’s not their oil at this stage. They look at the composition, what it’s trying to do and so forth, and then off the back of this they can do their magic and provide us with a Mobil oil that meets regulation, but is better.
“It’s a true technical partnership. And being an engineer, god I love it.”
Away from the track, WAU can still evaluate oils and how they impact the running of the race car, they just utilise the local team. They can conduct all the same tests and analysis, but it’s done at the lab, so the results take longer to get back to the team.
It’s easy for people outside the sponsorship bubble to think that a sticker is only about exposure. On many occasions it is, or product and technologies are given in exchange for real estate on the car, but sometimes it’s so much more. Sometimes the technical advantages are more than just local, they can be global. And any engineer would welcome the opportunity to experience this because knowledge is power. Knowledge is progression.
“It’s exciting to work with Mobil because they’ve got that knowledge base, it’s exciting to work with them because they’ve got tools that we could only hope to have,” Carl Faux said.
“They’re the oil experts, they’re the ones that provide us with a service. From my point of view they help us do better than we could on our own.”
An extensive range of Mobil1 oils and lubricants is distributed by MotorActive – www.motoractive.com.au