23 Nov 2018
Mark Winterbottom’s defection to a Commodore has been confirmed, with the 2015 Supercars champion to drive for Team 18 in 2019.
The team, owned by Charlie Schwerkolt, will split with Lee Holdsworth to accommodate 37-year-old Winterbottom, who will drive a ZB Commodore built by Triple Eight Race Engineering and backed by IRWIN Tools.
A closer technical alliance with Triple Eight will mean all present single-car teams have an established relationship with a larger powerhouse outfit.
Triple Eight already maintains a technical alliance with Tekno Autosport and Bigmate Racing (which switched back to Holden midway through the season), while Milwaukee Racing has an arrangement with Tickford and Brad Jones Racing houses the Team CoolDrive Commodore of Tim Blanchard.
After years of chasing the tails of Triple Eight Race Engineering, which was undoubtedly the powerhouse Ford outfit of the late 2000s before itself switching to the red marque, Winterbottom will finally be able to test himself against fierce rivals Jamie Whincup and Shane Van Gisbergen in the same equipment.
“I'm sure they're going to want to see what we're doing because like when [Shane] van Gisbergen was at Tekno, he pushed them,” Winterbottom told Fox Sports.
"And [Jamie] Whincup to his credit in New Zealand, he said to me, 'you've made the right move, you're going to love our equipment.
"Although we've been fierce rivals, we've got respect for each other, so it'll be cool to race them in the same gear, work with them and ultimately still try and beat them, but just work together.
"Hopefully we're all up there fighting for a championship and we're part of that mix."
Winterbottom’s announcement follows news that Craig Lowndes and Tim Blanchard will step away from full-time racing in 2019.
Triple Eight Race Engineering will become a sole two-car outfit in 2019 with Whincup and Van Gisbergen to pilot the Red Bull Holden Racing Team ZBs, with Lowndes not replaced in the Autobarn Commodore.
Watch Winterbottom battle it out in the first round of the 2019 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship at the Superloop Adelaide 500.