DJR Penske will be ‘up front’ in 2016

Dick Johnson initially thought cutting back to a one-car operation was a mistake, but now he believes it’s set DJR Team Penske up for big things next V8 Supercars season.

The Australian motorsport gave up control of his team at the end of last year to American racing icon Roger Penske to help breathe new life into the Ford outfit in 2015.

It didn’t all go to plan, with their lead driver – returning V8 champ Marcos Ambrose – calling it quits after just one championship round.

His replacement, Scott Pye, struggled for a few rounds steering the Falcon FGX but made his mark in Darwin with a season-high fourth place.

He ended the year with 13 top-10 finishes, and 19th overall.

“It’s been up and down,” Johnson told AAP.

“At the beginning of the year, to go back to one car, personally I thought it was probably a mistake.

“But in hindsight, it was the smartest thing that could’ve happened because it gave everyone an opportunity to understand what was required.”

It wasn’t until Bathurst that Johnson realised the benefit of having just one car, saying that was when everything really started to click between the Penske and DJR crews.

He reckons going back to two cars next year with Pye and current Holden driver Fabian Coulthard will be a “damned sight easier” than running one entry.

“We’ve got the background of all the right people and certainly the infrastructure to be able to cope with two cars, it’s just a matter maximising the benefit of having those facilities at our disposal.

“I think having Fabs around is going to be a big help for Scott. Scott’s got a lot to learn and Fabs knows how to win races.

“And with the depth of the Penske organisation and with what we have in our organisation, I think you’ll find we’ll be somewhere up towards the front.”

Ambrose has said he is not interested in being a co-driver for the endurance races next year, but what role – if any – he plays in the team is still unclear.

Johnson said decisions will be made at the start of 2016.

“I think it’s up to him, to be quite honest,” he added.

“He’s not here this weekend (at the Sydney 500) – whether that’s an intention or he had something else on, I really don’t know.

“I don’t pontificate on things that may or may not have been.”

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