Team(s): Preston Hire Racing
Team Principal: Charlie Schwerkolt
Chassis: Holden Commodore ZB
Drivers’ Championships: –
Driver: Lee Holdsworth (Preston Hire Racing)
A brief history
After racing under the Ford Performance Racing and Walkinshaw Racing banners, Charlie Schwerkolt’s Team 18 commenced as a standalone Supercars outfit in 2016.
Charlie Schwerkolt has been a team owner since 2009 when he partnered Dick Johnson at Dick Johnson Racing (DJR). That partnership culminated with James Courtney claiming the Championship in 2010 in the #18 Falcon but Schwerkolt and Johnson going their separate ways after the relationship broke down. Schwerkolt retained ownership of the #18 Racing Entitlements Contract, but signed a two-year lease deal with DJR for James Moffat’s 2011 and 2012 entries.
Regulations governing the use of Racing Entitlements Contract (REC) required Schwerkolt to either sell it, or run his own entry. Schwerkolt decided on the latter, aligning with Ford Performance Racing (now Tickford Racing) and running a fully supported customer car for Alex Davison in 2013 and Jack Perkins in 2014.
Replaced by Super Black Racing as the Ford team’s second customer partnership in 2015, Schwerkolt moved his #18 REC to Walkinshaw Racing for the 2015 season, bringing in Lee Holdsworth as the driver. Under the Walkinshaw banner, Holdsworth had results to varying degrees of success, but after being seemingly left out to dry by the Holden factory squad, as it reduced its operation to two cars, the opportunity arose for Schwerkolt to embark on running a solo team in its own right for 2016.
With backing from Preston Hire, Schwerkolt retained Holdsworth to pilot its Triple Eight-built #18 Holden Commodore, which came with full technical and engine support, while former championship winning team manager Jeff Grech spearheaded the new venture. Despite always improving, the low point came in Darwin’s Sunday race when Holdsworth crashed on the opening lap, breaking ribs and taking him out of contention for the next few rounds. Dunlop Series racer Kurt Kostecki was given the call up to replace the healing Holdsworth for Townsville and Ipswich. Holdsworth’s endurance co-driver Karl Reindler was given the main seat for Sydney to get in mileage before the three enduro rounds. Bathurst was a poor occasion for the team when it was forced to retire after breaking a rocker arm on the opening lap.
In the team’s second year Holdsworth spent much of the season hovering just outside the top ten, but despite coming on strong towards the end of the season, a run of DNFs relegated him to 16th.
Finding consistency will be key in 2018. With the exception of fourth and eighth at Newcastle (giving them second overall in the round), the team failed to string together two consecutive successful results. A top-ten at Sandown was cancelled out with an engine failure at Bathurst, while two top-ten finishes at Auckland and the Gold Coast were offset by two DNFs.
Having upgraded its existing Triple Eight-built Holden to the new ZB Commodore body for the 2018 Supercars Championship, Team 18 is looking to improve yet again this season and finish in the top 10 with Holdsworth and primary backers Preston Hire remaining on-board.