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How Team 18 tackled the 11th-hour border dash

Simon Chapman

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Tuesday 7th July, 2020 - 8:00am

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Team 18 was one of the five teams in Victoria to evacuate the state

In half a day five Victorian-based Supercars teams, including Charlie Schwerkolt’s Team 18, packed up and headed for the border with no knowledge of when they would be back.

A little over 12 hours was all the teams had to advise their staff of the move, load their cars, and then drive across the border into New South Wales.

Shortly after 10:00 local time/AEST news began to circulate that a border closure was coming and by 10:45 the Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, had confirmed it.

It meant Melburnians had to be out of the state by July 6 at 23:59 and restrictions extended to the rest of Victoria on July 7 at 23:59.

Around 11:00 on July 6, the Melbourne-based teams received word from Supercars to pack up and make a desperate dash across the border before it shut.

If they didn’t make it, they’d have to apply for a government exemption with no guarantee they would get permission to enter New South Wales.

Speaking with Speedcafe.com, Team 18 boss Charlie Schwerkolt described the rush to get ready as “absolute madness”.

“I got a phone call from Supercars, saying ‘Hey, this is going to happen’ then another 10 minutes later it was, ‘Hey, listen, it’s not tomorrow, it’s today’,” Schwerkolt said.

“We had a couple of phone calls that we might have to move the team. We were reasonably prepared, but it was all a bit of a mad rush, for sure.”

The team loaded up its two-car transporter and by 19:00 the team was on its way, cars and crew included.

And what of the team’s drivers? Mark Winterbottom was away at his holiday home, not far from the border and ready to be picked up along the way.

Meanwhile, Scott Pye was in the process of finding someone to look after his house and dog Basil as well as having one of his staff take the reins of his One Nine Media business.

The team drove across the border to Albury where they stayed the night and on Tuesday morning moved onto Sydney Motorsport Park where they’ll be based until Round 4.

While the move was a mission that left little time to spare, the new pseudo-workshop won’t be too much of a challenge for the team.

“There’s plenty to do on the cars, they’ll be busy,” Schwerkolt said of his team.

“If they do run out of work I’ll get them working on forklifts. There’s plenty to be done.

“The best thing is that freight is exempt, so if we’ve forgotten something we’ve got trucks with my own business running up and down every day and night to Sydney.

“That’s not a drama. We’ve loaded up all the spares we possibly can in the transporter and spare bars, spare doors, everything.

“The cars were reasonably prepped, obviously we’re a week out, but the engines are in the car and they can roll, so we’ll have them fully prepped at Sydney when we get there.”

Beyond next weekend’s Sydney SuperSprint, little is known about how the teams will operate.

Victorians can return home, but with no idea of when restrictions might be eased, it could mean teams and drivers are away from home for more than two weeks.

“The drivers are all ready to go and are having a bit of a home away from home for a little while,” said Schwerkolt

“Who knows how long it’s for, but it’s got to be done.”

Round 4 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, the Truck Assist Sydney SuperSprint, is set to take place on July 18-19.

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