Charlie Schwerkolt will split from Walkinshaw Racing at the end of the current season as the factory Holden squad trims back to two cars.
The move is expected to see Schwerkolt take his Racing Entitlements Contract and driver Lee Holdsworth to field an ex-Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden as a single-car outfit.
It marks the first time that Schwerkolt has gone out on his own after previous stints as a co-owner at Dick Johnson Racing and then running his REC out of Prodrive and Walkinshaw.
A flurry of speculation over the deal at Phillip Island forced Walkinshaw Racing team owner Ryan Walkinshaw to confirm to his staff at the circuit this morning that they will cut back to just two cars next year.
The team has already agreed to sell its #47 Racing Entitlements Contract to Super Black Racing, with sponsor Supercheap Auto headed to Prodrive and driver Tim Slade to Brad Jones Racing.
Schwerkolt joined Walkinshaw in 2015 on a two-year deal, but is understood to have been asked to increase his financial input next year due to the extra per-car cost of running three entries rather than four.
The forklift magnate has this year been the only remaining sole owner of a REC who does not also have equity in a V8 Supercars team; a business model all but squeezed out by the tight sponsorship market.
“It’s been really great to be working with the team for the past year and we are parting on really good terms,” said Schwerkolt in a statement.
“Adrian (Burgess, Walkinshaw managing director) is a great mate of mine and Ryan has been fantastic to work with, but I decided it is time to move on.
“Lee will still be driving for me and is really pumped for the 2016 season. At the moment he is obviously focussed on this event and finishing off the year on a high with the team.”
Whether Schwerkolt’s new outfit will be based in Melbourne or near his home on the Gold Coast is yet to be made clear.
The new team is the latest development in a bizarre 12 months for Holdsworth who, driving for Erebus last year, signed for Schwerkolt expecting to step into a Prodrive-prepared Ford.
That plan changed when Schwerkolt and Prodrive parted ways two years into a three-year contract in order for the former to place his REC at Walkinshaw, which had been left with a sudden vacancy after the exit of James Rosenberg.
The change will allow Walkinshaw to concentrate on the performance of its two flagship Holden Racing Team entries, which have not won the title since 2002.
“Over the course of the year Walkinshaw Racing have been looking at going back to two cars and we’ve had ambitions to put a rejuvenated focus on the Holden Racing Team,” said Walkinshaw in a statement.
“We want to put 100 percent of our resources, time and effort into the red cars and we want to ensure the team gets back to winning championships and winning Bathurst.
“The relationship with Charlie has been fantastic, we’ve had a great season together and we leave on very good terms which is great.
“We wish Charlie all the best going forward and we will be doing everything we can to assist him with his new venture.
“There are other projects within the Walkinshaw group that are developing and we will endeavour to produce the best outcome for the whole business.
“We are a large group, we are growing at a rapid pace off the race track and we will be doing everything we can to look after as many people as possible.”