The powerhouse team underwent a number of significant changes over the off-season, headlined by Team Penske pulling out of Supercars and selling its share back to Dick Johnson and Ryan Story.
The US giant took reigning three-time Supercars champion McLaughlin with it for an IndyCar ride, while DJR elected to part ways with second driver Fabian Coulthard after the Penske split.
DJR recruited Anton De Pasquale and Will Davison to take over the two Mustangs, as well as keeping its core engineering group, led by the highly-rated Ludo Lacroix, on the books.
It’s been a solid, if not spectacular, start to the 2021 campaign for the squad, with a single podium for Davison at Bathurst and two top fives for each driver from the first five races.
Davison is currently sixth in the points and De Pasquale 17th.
However, in contrast to three dominant seasons with McLaughlin at the wheel it has been seen by some corners of the fan base as a disappointment – particularly with Shane van Gisbergen on a five-race winning streak.
After posting the result to Sunday’s first race at Sandown on Facebook – a 12th for De Pasquale and a fifth for Davison – the team was subjected to some negative feedback from fans.
That prompted a personal response from McLaughlin, who went into bat for his former team.
“This was always a tough track for us and a strong one for [Triple Eight], always, since I joined the team,” he wrote.
“I’m sad reading some comments the last few days. I love our fans but the attack on the team/drivers is uncalled for.
“This has been a tough start for us as a squad. Bathurst, for two new drivers, learning a new car there is impossible. You need time. But Anton got a provisional pole at BATHURST – jeez give them some credit.
“Now into Sandown, where we never have been amazing, the team showed glimpses of speed even better than we have had before. We now go to Tasmania, where we have won in the past but have also struggled at a track where T8 is always strong.
“We have had a tough initiation for two new drivers in brand new cars. Give it time, support the drivers and the team.
“They will get there, you don’t win three teams’ championships because you’re idiots. But we all got a huge boost from positivity and support from all our fans. Positivity will only speed up the process for you all to enjoy success sooner rather than later.
“Cheering hard from USA team, you got this!”
McLaughlin is currently set to re-join DJR for the Bathurst 1000 later this year, however late changes to the IndyCar schedule means he may not have time to complete the mandatory quarantine to enter Australia.
Should that be the case Alex Davison, Will’s brother, is rumoured to be the likeliest replacement.
The team has already locked in Tony D’Alberto for a sixth-straight enduro campaign and is expected to partner De Pasquale.