MOUNT WAVERLEY, Victoria, Australia – The countdown to Clipsal is on! Race Chaser Online returns for its fourth season of Supercars coverage, beginning with our team-by-team season previews.
Over the next three weeks, we will go everywhere up and down the grid to prepare you for the season-opening race in Adelaide. We begin our previews with a look at Charlie Schwerkolt Racing.
Charlie Schwerkolt Racing
DRIVER: No. 18 – Lee Holdsworth, Preston Hire Holden Commodore VF
2016 TEAM POINTS FINISH: 15th
2016 HIGHEST RACE FINISH: A seventh-place finish in the Sunday race at Surfers Paradise
It was a bit unfortunate for Lee Holdsworth and his team at Charlie Schwerkolt Racing that the most significant news they made last season was not in regards to their on-track performance, but to a massive crash.
Holdsworth wrecked early in the finale at the CrownBet Darwin Triple Crown in June and broke his pelvis. Once he made it to the hospital, it was also discovered that he had fractured his right knee and broken two of his ribs.
While the series carried on, Lee spent the majority of the winter months (as it is in the Southern Hemisphere) rehabilitating. He had to move around in a wheelchair and could not stand on his own until August!
It was a massive setback for everyone at the team, especially given how well they had started the season. As the smallest of all the teams in the garage (CSR runs as a completely independent operation, with no alliance to one of the larger teams on the grid as is commonplace in the series), it was a major accomplishment for them to come out in the second round of the season and be successful.
But successful they were, claiming two top-five starting positions and one top-ten finish in Tasmania in late March. Holdsworth backed that run up with a 10th-place finish in the opening race at Winton and an eighth-place finish in the second race at Darwin, before the crash happened the next day.
Kurt Kostecki and Karl Reindler drove the No. 18 in Holdsworth’s absence, but were not able to replicate the successes that he had earlier in the year. When the primary driver was finally able to return for the Wilson Security Sandown 500, it seemed to buoy everyone within the organization.
Though they ran into trouble at Sandown and Bathurst, Surfers Paradise represented their high-watermark for the season, as Holdsworth and Reindler combined in the Sunday race to finish seventh.
The team stabilized to end the year, as Holdsworth then averaged a finish of just over 15th at Pukekohe and Homebush. It’s that kind of stability that they will look for in 2017.
The offseason has represented a chance to hit the proverbial “reset button” for both Holdsworth and the team, both of which should welcome the opportunity. If anything, both might be cheering for some luck and good fortune more than anything else in 2017.
Holdsworth, especially, will be hoping for some of it: two of his most famous moments from Supercars action in the past three seasons are a spectacular crash at Sandown, the result of a mechanical failure, and the aforementioned Darwin crash, for which he was also not at fault.
He will be hoping for a chance to repeat what he did with Erebus Motorsport in 2014 and take CSR to victory for the first time ever at Winton. Both he and the team are in agreement that runs of that nature, combined with consistent finishes between 10th and 15th at most tracks, are a much more accurate representation of what this team is capable of.
After a turbulent 2017, all that everyone at Charlie Schwerkolt Racing wants is a chance. Circumstances robbed them of that chance last season, but their hope is that 2017 becomes their clean slate.
For more information on Charlie Schwerkolt Racing, visit www.prestonhireracing.com.au.
For more information on the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, visit www.supercars.com.
About the Writer
James Pike is a multi-faceted reporter for Race Chaser Online and an analyst on the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
He is the lead correspondent for Race Chaser Online’s coverage of Australian Supercars and also covers regional touring series events in the Carolinas. He is a graduate of the Motorsports Management program at Belmont Abbey College and currently resides in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Email James at: RaceChaserJames@gmail.com
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