WHEN Scott McLaughlin claimed the first Bathurst 1000 win of his career in October he was quick to praise the efforts of his co-driver Alex Premat, but it was revealed today the Frenchman will not share his seat in 2020.
McLaughlin's DJR Team Penske outfit has opted to sign Tim Slade instead of Premat for next year's Supercars Enduro Cup, run over three rounds including Bathurst.
Slade comes to the team fresh from an 11-season full-time career, including taking a podium in Newcastle two weeks ago for Brad Jones Racing.
The decision to dump Premat comes as a surprise given he not only helped McLaughlin to hoist this year's Peter Brock Trophy in what was their fifth Bathurst 1000 together, but that the pair shared a mutual respect.
"He does cop a lot of flack for not being here and all that sort of stuff but he's a great guy. I've got a lot of trust in him and have driven with him for a long, long time," McLaughlin told the Western Advocate.
"It's awesome to have someone like that in your corner who is experience, especially for endurance race. To be experienced in endurance racing and be on pace basically straight away."
Premat, who also won the 2017 Enduro Cup alongside Shane van Gisbergen, claimed that McLaughlin "would beat Lewis Hamilton" after their success at Mount Panorama this year.
"It's magic. I'm the first Frenchman to win Bathurst, and it is amazing. Thank you so much to this team and to Scott. What a team, and what a driver," he said.
READ MORE: McLaughlin and Premat's Bathurst win stands
DJR Team Penske managing director Ryan Story said it was a difficult choice to sign Slade over Premat.
"Firstly, I'd like to thank Alex Premat for his time here at the team and for his contribution over the last three years. In our sport, sometimes difficult decisions must be made, and this was one of those decisions," Story said.
"With his recent history as a full-time driver, we know that Tim will be able to deliver great things in a Shell V-Power Racing Team Mustang."
Story said that with Slade joining the team and Tony D'Alberto to return as Fabian Coulthard's co-driver in the other DJR Team Penske Mustang, it will make for an easier build up to the Enduro Cup
"With both [co] drivers being based in Australia, we intend to have them compete in all additional driver sessions next year, and attend all of our team test days so they are fully integrated into our program," he said.
Slade, who crashed on the opening lap of this year's Bathurst 1000, is delighted to be paired with defending Supercars champion McLaughlin.
"I couldn't be happier to be joining the Shell V-Power Racing Team for the 2020 season," Slade said.
"This is the best team in the sport, and I can't wait to get behind the wheel of one of these Mustangs. Driving for names like Penske and Johnson is not something I take lightly, and I'm very much looking forward to working with the team next year."