Supercars screaming out for a new hero
Mark Skaife has revealed his fears for the future, with the Holden legend likening the loss of Scott McLaughlin and Jamie Whincup to that of Dick Johnson and Peter Brock.
Still reeling from McLaughlin's sudden IndyCar switch, the sport was last month delivered another blow when Whincup announced this year would be his last as a full-time driver.
Skaife has admitted the sport will struggle to find a new big name who can become the face of the sport, with Supercars to lose both its greatest driver and the heir apparent in the space of 12 months.
"I think it reminds me a little bit of when Peter Brock and Dick Johnson were retiring and I see it as a bit of a changing of the guard," Skaife said.
"I remember Ford and Holden talking to us trying to fill the void when massive names like Dick and Peter weren't going to be on the grid. So I see it partially the same a little bit."
Even before Whincup announced his retirement, Supercars was facing the challenge of not having its defending champion on the grid for the first time in 24 years.
Not only the defending champion, McLaughlin was considered to be the future face of the sport and a driver that would go on to challenge Whincup's record of seven titles after winning three straight.
"He would have had a crack at it, for sure," said Johnson.
"He had won three straight so that is saying something. He was certainly the one that would have replaced Jamie and he was a very special talent. That's for sure. And it was tough to see him go."
If that was not enough of a blow for Supercars, Whincup, the greatest championship driver in the history of the sport, announced his impending retirement just four months after McLaughlin left Australia.
Arguably the two biggest names in the sport gone - and soon to be gone - from the grid.
Between them, they share 10 Supercars titles and five Bathurst crowns, with Whincup owning just about every record in the book.
The series was already facing significant change following the loss of the Holden brand's official involvement and next year's launch of the Gen3 cars.
Supercars chief executive Sean Seamer was confident a new generation of stars would emerge.
"I think what you have seen over the history of this sport is a passing of the baton from generation to generation of driver - from Dick Johnson, Peter Brock, there is always another star ready to step up, and I think that's one of the things that makes this year really exciting," Seamer said.
"You've got some extremely talented drivers in that pit lane that will all be looking to race Jamie to the final chequered flag and I think it's going to be an interesting year.
"Jamie is obviously not going anywhere and I think it's great for him and the team, the strong succession plan that Triple Eight has had in place starting to evolve over the course of the next 12 months.
"There are a lot of really interesting stories and narratives to unfold over the course of this year for the drivers and for the teams."
Triple Eight team boss Roland Dane knows better than most the legacy Whincup has created - and will leave in the sport - after combining with the star for all of his Supercars title wins.
But Dane said losing figureheads and blooding new talent was part of the evolution of every sport.
"Sport is full of people who have retired or gone off to do something else, every sport," Dane said.
"Time shows me time and time again that sports move on and find new heroes and new stars. It doesn't matter whether it is motorsport, one of the footy codes, or cricket or whatever.
"To be honest, a lot of today's stars end up being forgotten pretty quickly as the world moves on to the next one. That's part of sport, I don't see that as an issue.
"There are plenty of good drivers, younger drivers that are either in the category or heading towards the category, so that's just part of sport and a great part of sport."
Skaife has urged generation next to stand up and has anointed Ford's Cameron Waters, Dave Reynolds, Andre Heimgartner and Anton de Pasquale as those who would need to step up to become a face of the sport.
He said the next generation was going to need to step up - on and off the track - to keep the sport in the spotlight.
"A lot of the young people and the rising stars will have to work harder and that's not a bad thing," Skaife said.
"Now that we haven't got the luxury of Scott being here, who is going to pick up the baton?
"In Ford land, I see Cam Waters having to do more, I see David Reynolds, now he's gone across there (to Ford), he has got to do more. I see young blokes like Andre Heimgartner, they will have to do more.
"And straight away the expectation around Anton De Pasquale and Will Davison is huge (at DJR), so they have got to grab that mantle.
"You will have to pick those Ford people and emphasise how much they have to do to make up for the loss of a Scott McLaughlin.
"If you want your sport to stay as the pre-eminent motorsport category in this part of the world, then you have to work hard."
Originally published as Supercars screaming out for a new hero