CLAYTON NORTH, Victoria, Australia — Team Preview by Race Chaser Online V8 Supercars Correspondent James Pike — Robert Cianflone/Getty Images AsiaPac photos —
To offer a quick explanation on the V8 Supercars rules regarding teams — In the V8 Supercars Championship, no team is allowed to own more than two cars. However, teams can form alliances with other teams to create “conglomerate” teams of three and four cars running with chassis from the same shop. These alliances are called Racing Entitlement Contracts, and they are often found with the lower-level teams in the V8SC.
Our 2015 V8 Supercars Championship Preview begins with a look at a pair of two such teams, Charlie Schwerkolt Racing and Walkinshaw Racing.
Charlie Schwerkolt Racing (REC with the Holden Racing Team)
DRIVER: No. 18 – Lee Holdsworth, JELD-WEN Holden Commodore VF
2014 TEAM POINTS FINISH: 15th
2014 HIGHLIGHT MOMENT: Jack Perkins’ eighth-place finish in the second race at Symmons Plains
When Stone Brothers Racing was sold and became the V8 arm of Erebus Motorsport’s racing program in 2013, Lee Holdsworth was one of two drivers that stayed with the team to run the new Erebus E63 AMG machines.
However, after two seasons behind the wheel of the No. 4 car, Holdsworth — the last driver to still be on the team from the Stone Brothers era — departed Erebus Motorsport at the end of 2014 to join Charlie Schwerkolt Racing.
Holdsworth’s time at Erebus Motorsport can be described as disappointing at best, as his team never was able to match its performance under SBR in the two years campaigning as Erebus. Though Lee did record Erebus’ first win at Winton Motor Speedway, his most significant moment of 2014 was his crash in the Wilson Security Sandown 500, which saw the No. 4 strike a tire barrier with a force greater than 40 Gs.
In that sense, the move to Charlie Schwerkolt Racing represents a fresh start for Lee — one where he will ideally be competing for wins and land somewhere towards the back half of the top ten in points (like he did in his last three years at Stone Brothers Racing, where he was 7th, 8th, and 8th in points, respectively).
Incidentally, this season will also represent a fresh start for CSR as well.
The largest news to come from the Charlie Schwerkolt Racing camp was a switch in their Racing Entitlement Contract agreement. They have formed an alliance with the Holden Racing Team for 2015, after being a customer of Ford Performance Racing (now Prodrive Racing Australia) for its first two seasons.
The hope is that the move to Holdens will allow CSR to be far more competitive than they were last season with Jack Perkins. Running underpowered and underfunded equipment, the No. 18 (not surprisingly) struggled throughout the year, recording 18 finishes outside the top 20 and only managing one top-ten finish at Symmons Plains.
Both driver and team suffered through largely miserable 2014 seasons, and have come together looking to reset everything and try again in 2015. Success for both will be defined by just about anything positive that happens to them — their misfortune was so pervasive last season that there really is nowhere to go for this group but up.
For more information on Charlie Schwerkolt Racing, make sure to visit http://www.teamjeldwen.com.au.
Walkinshaw Racing (REC with the Holden Racing Team)
DRIVER: No. 47 – Tim Slade, Supercheap Auto Holden Commodore VF
2014 TEAM POINTS FINISH: 13th
2014 HIGHLIGHT MOMENT: Tim Slade’s three podium finishes
Along with Lee Holdsworth, Tim Slade was also a Stone Brothers Racing driver before the sale to Erebus. However, Tim left the team a season earlier than Lee did, moving to Walkinshaw Racing for the 2014 season.
Tim’s first season with his new team was somewhat erratic, to say the least. There were some fantastic moments for the team at times — chief among them their weekend at the Gold Coast, where Tim claimed the final spot on the podium in the Saturday race, and followed that up with a fourth-place finish in the Sunday race. It was the second straight season in which Walkinshaw found themselves on the podium in Surfers Paradise, as Russell Ingall brought the team a third-place finish in the Sunday race in 2013. They also managed another third-place finish at Winton in April, and finished runner-up in the first race at the Homebush Street Circuit.
However, there were also many underwhelming weekends for Walkinshaw Racing in 2014. There was the disastrous weekend at Sydney Motorsport Park in August, where Tim wrecked in the opening laps of the first race of the weekend and was forced to retire from the rest of the weekend due to the damage sustained in the accident. In addition, there was the stretch between the races at Pukekohe and Barbagallo, where the No. 47 retired once, finished no higher than 11th, and failed to crack the top 20 in a stretch of four out of six races.
Most importantly, the Supercheap Auto Holden Commodore either retired from or failed to start eight races in 2014 — tied for most of any single car in the championship. The easiest way for Walkinshaw Racing to improve on its 2014 season, then, will be for them to cut down on the DNFs/ DNSs and make sure that they stay out of trouble on the track. Some more consistency in the finishes would also be helpful, but that is certainly not as pressing of a matter since the pace to run up front was in the No. 47 at times — as evidenced by their nine top-10 finishes.
Walkinshaw Racing will say that they underperformed in 2014 due to those retirements, and looking at their pace in the races they finished, it would be hard to disagree. They weren’t necessarily slow in 2014; they were just unlucky in avoiding calamity on the track.
This is a team that on a good day can compete at the front of the field (expect them to be a factor towards the end of the season at the Gold Coast and Homebush, where five of their nine top 10 finishes in 2014 were recorded). On a regular basis, expect to see Walkinshaw Racing and Tim Slade somewhere around the 10th-15th position.
That will be what the team wants to see, and unless the black cat continues to hang around their pit stall, they are arguably the most likely candidate to improve their efforts in 2015.
For more information on Walkinshaw Racing, visit http://www.supercheapautoracing.com.au/