Schwerkolt: Winterbottom’s first Team 18 win ‘not far away’

Mark Winterbottom’s #18 Irwin Racing Holden ZB Commodore

Charlie Schwerkolt is optimistic Mark Winterbottom’s first win with Team 18 isn’t far away, but concedes there’s a gap to the front-running outfits.

Winterbottom was a standout performer in the Repco Supercars Championship season-opener, claiming finishes of fifth and fourth at the Mount Panorama 500.

That’s seen the Irwin Racing driver come out of the opening round sitting third in the drivers’ championship behind points leader Shane van Gisbergen and second-placed Chaz Mostert.

It marks the best start to a season for Winterbottom since 2014.

However, a maiden Team 18 podium continues to elude Winterbottom. By contrast, DeWalt Racing team-mate Scott Pye claimed three third-place finishes with the team in 2020.

For Schwerkolt, the Bathurst showing is a major boost for a team only in its second year as a two-car operation.

The team boss believes Winterbottom will win a race in 2021.

“Scotty getting three podiums last year was just amazing, it was fantastic,” Schwerkolt told Speedcafe.com.

“As I said to a few people, Frosty [Winterbottom] will probably go for the win, he’ll skip the podiums. It’s not far away.

“A fourth and a fifth [at Bathurst] was great. It’s a tough place and easy to make a mistake. He didn’t put a foot wrong.

“Yeah, it’s not that far away, he’ll be there soon. I can’t wait. It’ll be a big night, and a big day, for a win. It’ll be a big story.

“He’s one of the best in the sport too,” Schwerkolt added.

“We’ve just got to continue to give him the goods. He’s got a good car, and he’s got a great package there.

“I’m really proud to see our car, P3, he can do it. We know what he can do when he drives smart. So that’s really good, just got to keep the momentum going.”

Mark Winterbottom

Schwerkolt is conscious that the likes of Triple Eight Race Engineering, who Team 18 are a customer of, and Tickford Racing will be tough to beat.

Cameron Waters was another standout at Mount Panorama, despite coming out of the opening round in sixth.

Waters led the opening stanza of Race 1 until a componentry failure meant he finished 20th. Then he was starved of a Race 2 win after being undercut by van Gisbergen.

The Kiwi came out of the opening round with a maximum haul of 300 points while Mostert behind him recorded finishes of second and third, earning 267 points.

“There’s three cars we really can’t match,” Schwerkolt explained.

“Waters, Gizzy, and Mostert at the moment. They’re just on a different level, those three, but the rest of the field we’re right up with them, right in the mix, no dramas at all.

“It’s all there to be done, and they’re both smart drivers,” he said of Winterbottom and Pye.

“They’re clever, and they’re good, and they know what to do. It should be good.”

Nevertheless, Schwerkolt said he’s happy to come out of the opening event third in the teams’ championship.

“Great start, really, really great start, but it’s what we want,” said Schwerkolt.

“We’ve got some new people, we’ve got a whole lot happening in this team, and it’s really good. We’ve stepped up, and we’ve got to keep it up there.

“We’ve just got to keep charging, and keep pushing. They’re both driving extremely good, pit stops are good, it’s a really great team.”

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