Mark Winterbottom will replace Lee Holdsworth in the single-car Team 18 squad next year, the team has confirmed.
Winterbottom’s departure from Tickford Racing – for whom he has raced since 2006 through its former Ford Performance Racing and Prodrive Racing guises – has been widely rumoured in the wake of a poor 2018 campaign that has yielded a solitary podium finish.
The team, which has largely run under the sponsorship of Schwerkolt’s own businesses, will carry title sponsorship of Irwin Tools which makes its return as a major sponsor for the first time since 2013.
“To have Mark drive with us in 2019 is really big, he brings a whole range of experience and accolades to Team 18,” said team owner Charlie Schwerkolt, who previously operated a customer car entry with Ford Performance Racing in 2013 and 2014.
“We’ve got some new engineering and partnerships forming which will take us to a new level in 2019. We have more to announce in the coming weeks, but I can’t wait to reveal the car next year.”
Having been a poster boy for Ford his entire career, Winterbottom will pilot a Holden Commodore for the first time when he joins the Charlie Schwerkolt-owned squad. It is expected that the team will run a new Triple Eight Race Engineering-built car next year.
“I haven’t thought about the [change of] badge to be honest,” said Winterbottom, the winner of the Supercars Championship title in 2015.
“I’ve looked at the opportunity not [from] the brand of car, and haven’t quite come to terms with that at the moment, but from the inside they all look the same and I think the opportunity that Charlie and Team 18 offered was too good to turn down.
“The Holden will be different but at the same time if we are winning races I’ll be happy to do it in whatever equipment we have.”
Winterbottom’s appointment leaves Lee Holdsworth out in the cold with just a handful of full-time race seats still up for grabs. The 35-year-old, a winner of three races and a further 16 podiums in over 400 race starts to-date, has been a part of the Team 18 structure since it became a single-car squad in 2015. The relationship has been a struggle in terms of performance and reliability, with Holdsworth yet to achieve a podium finish for the team.
Image via CS Racing