Team 18 owner Charlie Schwerkolt is determined to deliver a drought-breaking podium to Mark Winterbottom. Winterbottom joined the team in 2019, and has yet to score silverware in Team 18 colours.The 2015 series champion’s last podium came at Wanneroo Raceway in 2018 — 144 races and nearly five years ago.
Winterbottom’s last win came at Pukekohe in 2016 when he was still racing for what is now known as Tickford Racing.
The former Ford star’s experience with Gen3 on the horizon convinced Schwerkolt to re-sign the 38-race winner to a new deal last year.
The 2013 Bathurst winner will launch from fifth for Friday’s Race 4 at the Beaurepaires Melbourne SuperSprint.
Winterbottom left results on the table on Thursday after an incident in Race 3 qualifying before coming home 21st after being caught out by strategy.
It came after Winterbottom topped the crash-shortened Practice 1.
However, given Winterbottom’s fast start to 2023 — he finished sixth and 10th in Newcastle — Schwerkolt is keen to reward his star driver.
“I’m dying to get him a podium,” Schwerkolt said of Winterbottom.
“It could be today. I believe we can. We have genuinely good cars, we’ve built them well.
“We have great people here, and we’ll keep building and building.
“It was unfortunate when he just hit the wall and bent the rear arm, but he has strong pace.
“The race pace was excellent, we just didn’t get our strategy right. He’s loving the car, he’s loving the team, and he’s back in the zone.
“It’s a great opportunity for both guys. Both guys have good pace, and they’re enjoying it.”
Scott Pye — who was 15th on Thursday — helped Team 18 to three podiums in 2020, but the team has been left wanting since.
Perth 2018, Winterbottom’s last podium
However, in its first season independent of Triple Eight, Schwerkolt’s squad has already found form and is racing towards the pointy end.
For Schwerkolt, the final step is silverware — and he is motivated to do so with Team 18 as its own entity, with its own cars.
“Building our own cars has been a challenge — we’re out on our own,” Schwerkolt told Supercars.com.
“I think we’re doing a good job with what we’re coming up with. It’s exciting.
“This is Team 18 — we’re standing on our own two feet, and we’re building all the time.
“You’re not going to beat anyone if you copy them. We have to do things differently.
“We have to engineer our own way out of holes. We have to explore. We’ll make mistakes along the way.
“But eventually we’ll get there, I’m confident we will.”
Friday’s Race 4 will commence at 2:55pm local time at Albert Park.