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TEAM 18 WANTS TO GET IN SHAPE

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TEAM 18 has had success, but not yet, and will be hoping things fall into place at Mount Panorama this weekend.

The two-car squad head to Harry’s hoping to capitalize on recent form and likely wet weather to produce something special.

18 team owner Charlie Schwerkolt knows he has two experienced executives as primary drivers, both of whom have found success on the biggest stage of them all.

Behind the wheel of the #18 IRWIN Racing Holden ZB Commodore is veteran Mark Winterbot, who achieved a minor milestone at Bathurst.

Winterbottom lines up for his 20th Bathurst 1000 this weekend, having not missed a major race since his Stone Brothers Racing debut alongside Mark Noske in the #9 car.

This weekend, Mark Winterbottom will try to put two decades of experience to use on Mount Panorama.

Mountain wasn’t kind to Frosty with three DNFs in his first four attempts, but his luck soon changed with Jason Bargwanna, Luke Youlden and most notably Stephen Richards all finishing in the top 10.

Despite his competitive streak, Winterbottom craved the Peter Brock Trophy and his big moment came in 2013 when he fended off a struggling Jamie Whincup to score an emotional victory.

But as pleasing as that breakthrough was, ‘Frosty’ has hardly been seen on the famous Bathurst podium since.

Winterbottom’s only Bathurst Trophy came in 2015, when he and Steve Owen moved from 14th to second, while incidents halted his next two Great Race campaigns.

But things have looked better for Frosty since he moved from camp to the 18 team, with a pair of top-10 finishes in his first two attempts driving the Holden around the mountain.

While last year’s 16th result and the Pukekohe weekend have slowed the pace a bit, Winterbottom is fighting for a top-10 finish in the championship and believes he has a chance of success with the upgraded car.

“I’m very happy, I’ve been lucky to win it before and I’d like to win it again,” he said.

“It’s a massive race, last year for Holden, last year for Commodore and it’s my 20th race so I’d like to win it.

“I think the car has definitely had a good birthday in a short period of time, there’s a lot of new stuff in it and it feels really good.”

Michael Caruso will join ‘Frosty’ in the 18 Holden Commodore team at Bathurst.

For the second year in a row, Winterbottom will be joined by former in-state rival Michael Caruso.

The pair is one of the most experienced and bankable combinations on the grid, and their experience could be critical when the expected rain comes down the mountain.

Winterbottom has endured plenty of heartache and even flames at previous wet Bathurst 1000’s, but Caruso has danced in the rain before, with his only podium coming in the 2009 wet-dry classic, and he’s also stayed out of trouble in 2017.

Caruso believes experience could be the key this weekend.

“Bathurst is our biggest event of the year and everyone wants to win,” he said.

“It’s a long week, Mark has a lot of experience and understands what’s required and I feel like I know pretty well what to expect on a race weekend so I’m really looking forward to getting up there and mixing it up with everyone.”

While the focus may be on Winterbottom becoming the 40th driver to record 20 or more Bathurst 1000 starts, his team-mate Scott Pye enters the big event with runs on the board.

Scott Pye comes to Mount Panorama with new stickers and a hot uniform.

Pai endured a bruising season, but began to turn things around.

The #20 Holden Commodore hasn’t finished outside the top 10 in the last six races at Sandown and Pukekohe, meaning many in the 18 team are looking forward to seeing the new-look Alspec car roll off the truck.

​​​​​​​Although he has felt the bite of Harry and the times, Pye also knows how to beat her, especially in wet conditions, as he and Warren Lough climbed from 20th to second in 2017 and returned to the podium 12 months.

Despite the steering drama that cut his big 2021 race to just three laps, Pye is maintaining his recent form.

“It’s been quite a tough season, we’ve had some great results recently so we’ve got some good momentum going into Bathurst,” he said.

“But there’s a quick way to turn around a tough year and that’s winning The Great Race.

“I’m very focused, very excited and can’t wait to get on the right track.”

The new Team 18 team of Scott Pye and Tyler Everingham have been busy perfecting their driver changes during the pre-Bathurst test at Winton.

Pye will be hoping to pass on his contrasting memories of the mountains to Tyler Everingham, who is making his second start at Bathurst but is in a good place after a recent test at Winton.

“After our test day I feel very comfortable in the Alspec Racing car, we’ve made a lot of improvements so I feel very confident heading into Bathurst,” he said.

“It’s very exciting to be going to Bathurst as a rider from the Central West region and representing Dubbo in not only the biggest race in Australia but one of the most iconic races in the world, I can’t wait to hit the track.”

For more of the latest motorsport news, pick up the latest issue of AUTO ACTION.

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