One of the most important days in Charlie Schwerkolt’s life let alone V8 Supercars career has arrived with the unveiling of his new team at midday in Melbourne.
Schwerkolt, the former co-owner of Dick Johnson Racing and customer of Prodrive Racing Australia and Walkinshaw Racing, goes it alone in 2016 for the first time with his own independent structure led by one-time Holden Racing Team boss Jeff Grech and with Lee Holdsworth in the drivers’ seat.
At today’s function at its Dandenong headquarters, the team’s new naming rights partner, ex-Triple Eight Holden Commodore VF, the staff who have been recruited to race it and Holdsworth’s Pirtek Enduro Cup co-driver will be revealed.
“This is obviously a very special time for me,” said Schwerkolt. “Putting all this together has been a lot of hard work but I feel really good about it.
“It’s a very important part of my life to make this work and I am confident it will work. It’s a great move.”
The newest team in the championship has come together quickly and virtually from scratch after Schwerkolt and Walkinshaw Racing dissolved their agreement late last season.
Initially, Grech ran the show pretty much singlehanded with most staff signing on from January 4 to join him. There are now 10 people employed at the team, counting Schwerkolt himself.
“I didn’t even know three months ago I would be doing this,” Schwerkolt admitted. “I guess it was a dream in the back of my mind to do this one day but I doubted it would ever happen, that it would be too hard to put together.
“So putting it all together in such a short period of time with all the right people and making it all happen is a pretty special time in my motorsport career for sure.”
The Gold Coast-based forklift magnate tasted great success in his time at DJR when James Courtney won the 2010 drivers’ championship. But he said even being heavily involved as a co-owner couldn’t match having sole ownership of a team.
“It's hard to explain but it is very, very special,” he said. “You have control of your destiny, you have a great group of people.
“I am relying on the people I have employed. I am not relying on anyone else anymore.”
Schwerkolt said he had not considered departing V8 Supercars, citing his ongoing deal with Holdsworth as one of the important motivators in taking this course.
“Sure I was backed into a corner to a degree there, but I believe in Lee and he can deliver what we really want him to deliver.
“I was thinking ‘I have a great driver and we are signed up and ready to go for next year and have the license’ so there was never any question about it.”
He also paid tribute to Grech’s key role in setting up the operation.
“Jeff has worked through the summer. He runs the operation; I couldn’t have done it without him. There’s obviously my own forklift company that has brought resources to bear as well, so I couldn’t have don’t it without them either.
“I think Jeff started mid-December and most of the rest of the staff started on January 4 and they might have had half a Sunday off all of them together.
“There’s been a massive amount of work done to put it all together. All the bits and pieces we have had to buy and put together and make. It’s been big.”
He also emphasised the help Triple Eight had been in supplying the team’s Commodore, which was a spare car that didn’t race in 2015.
“We have got the best deal we possibly can with Triple Eight. They have been great to deal with and supporting me in my program,” he said.
The milestones will come quickly for the new team, which will test for the first time at Winton on Monday and then debut in the championship at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide on March 3-6.
“The test day will be a special day for us and getting out on the grid at Clipsal in hopefully a good position will also be emotionally special for us all.”