Pitlane pain triggered Team 18 expansion

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 23/10/2019
  • By Stefan Bartholomaeus

A desire to “control your own destiny” in pitlane was the driving force behind Charlie Schwerkolt’s decision to expand his Team 18 squad to two cars next season.

After four years running a single-car operation, Schwerkolt has purchased a Racing Entitlements Contract from Kelly Racing and Shane van Gisbergen’s current car from Triple Eight ahead of 2020.

Under Supercars rules, the field is split into pairs for pitlane purposes, with each pair sharing a pit bay, boom and pitstop personnel.

That involves single-car and three-car teams forming partnerships, such as Team 18’s current alliance with Tekno Autosports.

The make-up of next year’s grid though may mark the end of such pairings, which have repeatedly provided frustration for the likes of Schwerkolt.

Single-car squads Team 18, Tekno and Matt Stone Racing have each confirmed plans to run two cars next year, while three-car squad Brad Jones Racing is expected to expand to four.

“Supercars is a two-car model,” Schwerkolt told Supercars.com when asked why he’s chosen to expand his squad.

“There’s one boom for each pair of cars and I’ve had three different single-car teams I’ve been paired with over the last couple of years.

“I think it’s time, if you’re in this game and fair dinkum about it, to be in control of your own destiny.

“It’s a natural move to go to two cars and it’s the right time [for Team 18].”

Team 18’s first two seasons as a standalone squad included a pitlane partnership with Albury-based BJR’s third car.

Schwerkolt then linked with Phil Munday’s 23Red Racing in 2018, before pairing with Tekno this year after 23Red moved into the Tickford fold.

“It’s been no fault of anyone,” added Schwerkolt of his pitlane frustrations.

“Each of the other teams we’ve partnered with have been based in different states.

“I’m looking to be able to build a pitstop team with the same guys every week.

“The guys at Tekno do a great job, but we can’t practice, they’re in Queensland, we’re in Melbourne, so it makes it really difficult.

“It’s a really big thing to get on top of. As we all know, you can lose crucial seconds in a pitstop.”

Schwerkolt says an expansion was already in the planning when he refreshed his team over the 2018/19 off-season.

That included recruiting driver Mark Winterbottom, engineer Phil Keed and team manager Steve Henderson.

Currently operating with a headcount of 14, Schwerkolt is currently recruiting staff to move that number towards 20 for 2020.

With two fourths this season equalling the team’s results as a standalone outfit, he’s hopeful a maiden podium – and even a win – are on the horizon.

“We had a refresh of the whole team at the start of this year and we’ve got the right people in place that can take the team forward now,” he said.

“I think to keep some of these people as well, if I stayed as a single-car some would drop off the perch, so it’s a natural progression.

“Frosty is the real deal, he’s a great driver and I think this is a move that will help him, having a teammate.”

Schwerkolt says he’s still evaluating his options for the second driver next year, with Scott Pye among those linked to the drive.

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