More 'big changes' behind Winterbottom Team 18 deal

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 23/11/2018
  • By Stefan Bartholomaeus

Charlie Schwerkolt has teased more, yet-to-be-revealed ‘big changes’ to his Team 18 outfit that helped secure the signature of Mark Winterbottom for 2019.

Team 18 announced on Thursday that Winterbottom and IRWIN Tools will replace incumbent driver Lee Holdsworth and sponsor Preston Hire next season.

The confirmation included plans to form a closer tie-up with Triple Eight, having previously run its own development path with a Triple Eight-built Commodore.

However, Supercars.com understands another key part of the equation is the recruitment of highly respected engineer Phil Keed to run Winterbottom’s car.

Keed, below, has been out of the Supercars paddock this year on gardening leave, having worked with Fabian Coulthard at DJR Team Penske in 2016-17.

The engineer’s extensive Supercars history includes a stint at Ford Performance Racing, where he worked directly with Winterbottom throughout the 2009 season.

Schwerkolt is remaining tight-lipped on the signing of any new staff, but says he’s excited by more announcements that are in the pipeline.

“There’s some big changes there but I can’t elaborate just yet,” Schwerkolt told Supercars.com.

“We’ve got to get through this weekend and make some announcements in the next couple of weeks.

“But there’s some really, really good stuff we’ve got in the wings, I’m very excited.

“There may be some doubts from people about what I can put together, but I’m not too worried about that.

“I’ve got a will to win and a will to deliver so I’ve got to put it all together.

“I think the plans we’ve put in place and the resources Mark will have are really good.”

A tough road

The moves mark the latest in a series of reincarnations of Team 18, since it first appeared as a Ford Performance Racing customer in 2013.

After two years at FPR with Alex Davison and then Jack Perkins, Schwerkolt signed Holdsworth and moved to Walkinshaw Racing for 2015.

A year later, he bought a Triple Eight Holden and established Team 18’s own base in Melbourne, but a decision to go its own way on development has yielded little results.

Although admitting “I’ve done some things wrong and we’ve gone in the wrong direction on certain things”, Schwerkolt says he’s never considered walking away from the category.

“It’s been cruel, it’s been tough. It’s felt like the hardest gig in the world,” he said.

“But [walking away] has never come across my mind at all. I’ve got too many good partners on the car, a lot of good people.

“Not matter what people say I’ve brought a lot of good things to the sport, as in sponsorship-wise and staff.

“I’ve got some great people involved and I’m looking to give them a confidence boost too.

“They’re looking for some results as well and I think this is the best opportunity to move up.”

While the signing of 2015 champion Winterbottom and tie-up with Triple Eight will bring greater expectations, Schwerkolt is keeping his targets in check for now.

“At the end of the year if we’re in the top 10 or better, it’ll be remarkable from where we are today,” he said.

“Everyone thinks Frosty can win this or that, but it’s a hard gig out there and you need the resources from everyone.

“I want to be realistic about it and deliver what I’ve promised to deliver and make it all work.”

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