01 Mar 2018
DON'T be deceived by Lee Holdsworth's relaxed approach heading into the Adelaide 500 this weekend, he's a man on a mission in the black-and-gold Car 18.
By Matthew Agius
HAVING found some genuine pace at the front of the field last year, Lee Holdsworth is hoping to keep the Preston Hire Commodore circulating in the top 10 - starting at this year's Adelaide 500.
As a genuinely independent one-car team (Preston Hire Racing has no data-sharing relationship with other squads in pitlane), Holdsworth knows consistent performance – and speed – are essential in this year’s campaign, especially with ambitions of being a consistent top 10 team.
“We started gaining some consistency at the end of last year, so consistency is the key, but we also need speed and we found a bit of that,” Holdsworth told Adelaide500.com.au.
“I would like to see a lot more top fives this year… and consistently run in the top 10. Obviously, we’re aiming at our first podium [and] to finish in the top 10 in the championship is a lot more realistic.
“We are really the only one-car team in the field. We operate purely on our own in terms of data, setup knowledge.
“There are a couple of other one-car teams, but they share data with other teams, so they’re not really in the same boat.”
Holdsworth is now among the most experienced drivers in the category, having raced Supercars since 2004 (in the second-tier), he’s outranked by just Garth Tander, Craig Lowndes, Rick Kelly, Jamie Whincup and Mark Winterbottom for category experience.
He’ll be putting that knowledge to use setting up the car with his team, which has been carefully shaped behind the garage doors by team manager Jeff Grech – whose resume includes famed stints at the Holden Racing Team during its late 90s and early 2000s heyday.
“It’s a difficult one for us [being a single-car team], but at the same time it means the car is setup for me,” Holdsworth said.
“We just have to have trust in my feelings in the car, my feedback, and I have to relay that information very clearly to my engineer, to ensure sure every step we take is a step in the right direction.
“Jeff’s been able to turn teams around, he’s been in the most successful team in the category [HRT]. Having him on board is a huge thing for us.
“We’ve now got a great bunch of guys who really gel. He [Grech] is great at picking the staff.”
While the Adelaide 500 is one of the most demanding races on drivers – with barely an opportunity to relax on the demanding 3.22km circuit – the 26 pilots will take the opportunity Thursday’s ‘rest day’ affords to absorb the event’s carnival-like atmosphere before switching into attack mode during qualifying on Friday.
Holdsworth particularly says a relaxed approach in the build-up to drive time will steel him for the gruelling work of the next three days.
“We want to come out of this with a clean car, but to do that requires speed so you’re fighting with the guys who are sensible on track,” Holdsworth said.
“It’s probably more mental than physical in the car - this round is a hard one, probably the toughest of the year for many reasons. It’s a bloody tough track, it’s hard on the car, hard on the driver.
“I’ll just try to enjoy the event, because half of the job is just actually enjoying it, and keeping in mind that you’re there to have fun, and when you’re enjoying it you tend to do well.
“I’m trying to stay relaxed, I’ll run through a bit of in-car footage to get it all in my mind, and hang out with the guys and have a few laughs to get in good spirits for tomorrow.”
Lee Holdsworth drives the #18 Preston Hire Racing Commodore.
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