Grove: Bathurst 1000 was the game-changer for Holdsworth
Saturday 25th December, 2021 - 11:00am
A stunning performance in the Bathurst 1000 was pretty well the sole factor that ultimately allowed Lee Holdsworth to revive his full-time Supercars career.
Holdsworth hailed his 2022 Grove Racing seat “a great Christmas present” which comes after he was left on the outer by Tickford Racing at the start of this year.
A known quantity with 15 full Supercars seasons under his belt, Holdsworth had been in the running for the #2 Walkinshaw Andretti United drive that ultimately went Nick Percat’s way for next year.
Speedcafe.com understands he was quick to voice his interest to drive a Grove Racing Mustang next year when Andre Heimgartner’s surprise split with the team came to light, but it was only after Bathurst that he got the nod.
“For sure,” team co-owner Brenton Grove told Speedcafe.com when asked if Holdsworth’s Bathurst 1000-winning performance had got him over the line.
“It was pretty clear in terms of how he went in the co-driver sessions and then also in the race itself, I think the first two stints where he was able to build quite a big gap and then there was a Safety Car and then quite a big gap again after that.
“It was pretty clear that he was definitely still ready for a main game drive.”
Holdsworth had been Stephen Grove’s Carrera Cup Pro-Am co-driver in 2016, but that was pretty well the extent of the duo’s prior relationship.
Being the last available main game seat available for next season, the Groves had no shortage of options at their disposal. But Holdsworth was their man, and the tidal wave of support from fans only reassured that decision.
“It was quite positive after Bathurst when we were pretty keen that that was the direction we wanted to go, that that was the direction the fans were after,” Brenton added.
For his part, Holdsworth conceded he’d all but given up hope of ever being back in the saddle full-time.
“I guess, at the start of the year, the first six months I had the feelers out and there was a chance at Walkinshaw but I certainly never felt like I was in for a great shot there,” the 38-year-old told Speedcafe.com.
“I guess in the end they wanted someone that could build with the team over time and a younger sort of driver and I completely understand that because they’re in a bit of a building phase still at the moment. They’re looking to challenge for the championship in the future, probably more so next year with Chaz [Mostert], and then with Chaz and Nick over the next few years.
“But I probably felt that by mid-year the chances of getting back in were pretty slim and I started putting my energy into a life outside of motorsport.”
Ironically, WAU ended up being central to Holdsworth’s cause, providing him and Mostert with a speedy #25 ZB Commodore at The Mountain, and releasing him from his 2022 contract to take up the Grove Racing opportunity.
There, he will drive a #10 Mustang as team-mate to 2017 Bathurst 1000 winner David Reynolds.