What's new in 2019: Frosty in a Holden

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 08/01/2019
  • By Stefan Bartholomaeus

Until now, Mark Winterbottom had been the most brand-loyal driver in Supercars history.

Winterbottom’s allegiance to Ford stretched back to his karting days, winning the short-lived Ford Kart Stars scholarship his ticket into car racing.

His foray into Formula Ford came with the manufacturer’s backing, before being picked up by Stone Brothers Racing and driving an AU Falcon to the 2003 Super2 Series title.

He made his main game debut in the same year aboard an SBR BA Falcon in the enduros and, with no room in Ross and Jim's full-time line-up, spent the next two years at Larkham Motorsport.

A 13-year stint with what is now called Tickford Racing followed, and included a Bathurst 1000 win in 2013 and the championship two years later.

Both were a long time coming, Winterbottom having been one of the top Ford runners each year since joining the team in 2006.

Since the 2015 title, though, results have been hard to come by.

Winless since late-2016 and then in '18 suffering his worst season with the squad, Winterbottom decided to make a big change.

Where he’s going?

Winterbottom joins Charlie Schwerkolt’s Team 18 for 2019, replacing Lee Holdsworth in the single-car Holden squad.

While it’s clearly a risk given the outfit’s lack of results since it was established in 2016, Schwerkolt has big ambitions that have convinced Winterbottom it’s one worth taking.

Key is the signing of a new major backer in IRWIN Tools, marking a return to primary Supercars sponsorship for the brand following its exit at the end of 2013.

The biggest lure for Winterbottom is Team 18’s new alliance with Triple Eight – a team that frequently got the better of ‘Frosty’ and Tickford for more than a decade.

Schwerkolt bought a Triple Eight Commodore when he established Team 18 as a standalone entity in 2016, but has been running without technical support after electing to go his own way.

That is set to change in 2019, with Schwerkolt establishing a similar satellite relationship to that enjoyed by Tekno Autosports.

Schwerkolt’s efforts to lift the squad have also included recruiting gun engineer Phil Keed, who was on gardening leave in 2018 following his split with DJR Team Penske.

It marks a rekindling of the driver-engineer partnership, with Keed and Winterbottom having worked together at FPR 10 years ago.

Holdsworth and Winterbottom both endured frustrating 2018s

How will he fare?

The revitalised Team 18’s position in the pecking order is arguably the biggest unknown coming into the new year.

While it seems optimistic to think that such a new combination will be regular frontrunners, the ingredients are certainly there for results.

Winterbottom has a point to prove after his recent struggles at Tickford and, at 37, he’s far from a spent force.

The fortunes of Triple Eight’s customers, such as Tekno, have typically fluctuated event-to-event in recent years, which will likely be the case here.

Having given up a seat in a new Mustang for the Team 18 drive, there will be plenty of eyes on how Winterbottom's new and old teams perform in 2019.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that Holdsworth has gone in the other direction, picking up the vacated Tickford seat after a horror 2018 with Schwerkolt.

Will this move bring an improvement in fortunes for both veteran campaigners? Only time will tell.

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