New Supercars rules a boost for exiled teams

The opportunity for midfield teams to contend for wins and podiums has provided a boost for Victorian Supercars crews stuck on the road, says Charlie Schwerkolt.

New Supercars rules a boost for exiled teams

Schwerkolt's Team 18 outfit is one of the five Victoria-based teams that fled the state's border back in early July, as a deadly second COVID-19 wave took hold in Melbourne, to ensure the Supercars season could continue.

They haven't been back since, with drivers and personnel from the affected teams unlikely to see their families and homes again until mid-October after the Bathurst 1000.

There has at least been some success for the exiled teams since they hit the road, with the new mixed compound tyre regulations helping the likes of Jack Le Brocq (Tickford Racing) and Anton De Pasquale (Erebus Motorsport) to their first race wins.

Team 18, meanwhile, celebrated its first podium in Darwin last weekend with Scott Pye and Mark Winterbottom finishing third and fourth respectively on the Saturday.

Winterbottom had led the race in the opening laps after opting to start on the soft compound Dunlop, only to have his strategy undone by an early Safety Car.

According to Schwerkolt, the opportunity for smaller teams to exploit the tyre rules and get a result has been a big help in terms of morale for the travelling staff.

"I think it's been great for the sport to see other names on the podium," he told Motorsport.com.

"It's still difficult to get on that podium, it's really, really difficult. But it mixes things up instead of the big-money teams always being up the front. It's great to be able to vary that.

"It's incredibly tough for these families. [Winterbottom] has got three kids, our team manager Steve Henderson has three kids, and so does our crew chief Johnny Moore. It's going to be almost five months on the road by the time we finish, and that's an incredible ask. It really is.

"To their credit they've bonded well together. There's been no blues, we've given them the best accomodation we possibly can, great meals, and they're working really, really well together.

"And getting a result and good racing helps that."

The team will pay tribute to those loved ones in Melbourne during this weekend's second Darwin leg, through photos stuck to the driver's side door sleeves of both cars (pictured below).

Schwerkolt added that the regulations have also helped keep his backers interested, at a time when they can't activate on-site in anyway.

"It's great for the sponsors too," he said. "My sponsors are more engaged, because they know we can maybe win a race. It's mixing things up. I think Supercars has done a great job."

A clear tyre advantage may be tougher to come by for the next three events, with a limited soft tyre allocation in play rather than both compounds.

However Schwerkolt is confident his squad will still be in the mix, with the team's recent swing of form not entirely tied to rubber and strategy.

"It's a three-year plan of building, building and building. Rome wasn't built in a day, and bonding the team and learning the cars and everything, it's all heading in the right direction," he said.

"[Winterbottom] has been there for a year now and he's knocking on the door of a podium or a win. He's driving fantastically. He did a colossal job [last] weekend and with a bit better luck he would have won a race there.

"And Scott, he's doing a great job too. He's learning the ropes. With qualifying we're not quite there yet, I'm not sure what that is. But race-wise he's got a really quick car. You saw him go through the whole field from basically last on Saturday.

"He's a very clever driver and also very fast. He's cementing his place in the team.

"We're heading in the right direction, we've just got to keep pushing and moving forward."

Photos of family in Mark Winterbottom's car

Photos of family in Mark Winterbottom's car

Photo by: Team 18

shares
comments
Supercars Darwin SuperSprint Qualifying – Start time, how to watch, channel & more

Previous article

Supercars Darwin SuperSprint Qualifying – Start time, how to watch, channel & more

Next article

Sneaking a Supercar into the Bathurst 12 Hour

Sneaking a Supercar into the Bathurst 12 Hour
Load comments
How taming his temper shaped Supercars' slow-burn star Prime

How taming his temper shaped Supercars' slow-burn star

His decision to leave Brad Jones Racing was the biggest shock of the Australian Supercars silly season so far. But for Nick Percat, it comes as the culmination of a personal journey that has made him into one of the most rounded drivers in the series, now in search of a seat that can make him a champion

Supercars
Sep 17, 2021
Why replacing Supercars' GOAT with a teenager is worth the risk for T8 Prime

Why replacing Supercars' GOAT with a teenager is worth the risk for T8

On the face of it, picking an 18-year-old rookie to replace arguably the greatest Supercars driver of all time is a risky move. But as Jamie Whincup takes up a team principal role and hands his car to Broc Feeney, it's one that he is confident will be rewarded in the fullness of time - time which wasn't afforded to Whincup in his early days

Supercars
Sep 1, 2021
How Randle went from fighting cancer to battling for Supercars contention Prime

How Randle went from fighting cancer to battling for Supercars contention

After his fledgling career was paused by a battle with testicular cancer, Thomas Randle then had to wrestle with finding a drive in Supercars after he got the all-clear. It's been a long road for the Melbourne native but, after two lengthy battles, he's finally got a full-time drive to look forward to

Supercars
Jun 29, 2021
How crisis talks over Supercars’ Gen3 future could leave it without a paddle Prime

How crisis talks over Supercars’ Gen3 future could leave it without a paddle

With Supercars’ Gen3 era on the horizon, a shift is set to take place – in more ways than one – but, as has become clear in recent weeks, the plan to bin the stick and use paddles with electronic assisted shift has been met with fierce opposition

Supercars
May 24, 2021
Can DJR still be a Supercars powerhouse after Penske? Prime

Can DJR still be a Supercars powerhouse after Penske?

Roger Penske's whirlwind Australian Supercars sojourn is over. After six seasons, three drivers' titles, three teams' championships and a Bathurst 1000 crown, The Captain has sold his controlling stake in Dick Johnson Racing back to the squad and walked away from the category.

Supercars
Feb 26, 2021
Can Whincup be Triple Eight's ruthless leader? Prime

Can Whincup be Triple Eight's ruthless leader?

Supercars' most successful team of the past 15 years is set for a radical shakeup next year when Jamie Whincup retires from driving and takes over the reins at Triple Eight. But does he have what it takes to be the new Roland Dane?

Supercars
Feb 8, 2021
How a lifetime Supercars deal broke down in one year Prime

How a lifetime Supercars deal broke down in one year

David Reynolds inked what was effectively a lifetime deal with Erebus in 2019 – only to walk out a year later. What went wrong?

Supercars
Dec 18, 2020
Why Supercars now needs a new "human salt harvester" Prime

Why Supercars now needs a new "human salt harvester"

Scott McLaughlin has been a controversial figure in Supercars over the past few years but, as he heads off to a fresh challenge in IndyCar, the Australian tin-top series needs to find someone else to fill his drama-filled boots as the category enters a new era...

Supercars
Nov 3, 2020