IT was one of the oddities of Supercars’ driver contract ‘silly season’ of 2014.
Erebus announced in August that Lee Holdsworth had signed a new multi-year contract to stay with the team and completed several media interviews about the new deal.
Come November, the team announced Holdsworth was leaving at the end of the year. So what happened?
Holdsworth opened up about the matter on the V8 Sleuth Podcast and confirmed that a deal was agreed to, but it was contingent on another move Erebus was in the middle of making.
The then-Mercedes team was deep in talks to switch to Volvo for 2015.
Listen to the full episode in the player below!
“Ryan Maddison was the general manager at the time of Erebus,” Holdsworth told the V8 Sleuth Podcast.
“We’d verbally agreed on a deal; at that point, not a lot of people knew this, but there was a bit of a link with Volvo for the following year.”
Volvo entered Supercars in 2014 with a big splash: its two cyan-hued factory entries were run by Garry Rogers Motorsport, and Scott McLaughlin had illustrated the S60’s competitiveness by taking pole positions and race wins.
READ MORE: What happened to all the Volvo V8 Supercars?
By mid-year, Volvo had confirmed its desire to expand its presence on the grid and that it had engaged in talks with a handful of teams to switch to the Swedish marque.
One of those was Erebus; Holdsworth took the team’s Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG to its first Supercars race win at Winton in May, but their two-year deal for support through the German marque’s customer sport operation HWA ran out at the end of 2014.
The prospect of entering 2015 armed with the potent Volvo was enough for Holdsworth to shake hands on a new contract, which prompted the announcement from the team on the eve of the Sydney Motorsport Park round.
“I’m known for my handshake deals,” Holdsworth said.
“All my mates give me a bit of crap about that, because most of my sponsorship deals – personal stuff, on my helmet – are just done through knowing people and having a relationship with them; a shake of the hand is as good as a signature on a contract.
“I was pretty excited about (the deal) considering the Volvo was going quite well – you always want to win a championship and I still had those hopes in mind.”
The subsequent endurance races delivered a pair of dramatic crashes; a tyre failure at the end of Sandown’s back straight pitched him into the barriers at the Esses at over 40G, while contact from Russell Ingall rolled Holdsworth’s #4 Mercedes onto its roof late in the Bathurst 1000.
A bigger blow for Holdsworth, however, came later that afternoon in the Mount Panorama paddock.
“That weekend was meant to be where the deal was made with Volvo,” Holdsworth revealed.
“On the Sunday night, Betty (Klimenko) came up to my camper van, we had a few drinks together, she said ‘I’m sorry, but the deal for next year with the manufacturer isn’t looking great. The deal’s basically fallen through. But we’d love to have you.’
“I questioned what we were going to do to make things better, and it didn’t really add up to me that (continuing with Mercedes with no support) was going to be much better.
“I knew it was still going to improve, but it just wasn’t going to be where I needed it to be for the following year.
“It was going to take too much more time and time was starting to not be on my side.”
Come November, Holdsworth had secured a move to Charlie Schwerkolt’s #18 entry, which at the time was being run out of Ford Performance Racing.
As it turned out, Holdsworth didn’t drive the Team 18 Ford he expected to either… as Schwerkolt switched his license to Walkinshaw Racing amid a reshuffle in the FPR fold.
Holdsworth talks candidly about his time racing for Team 18 in the episode, along with his years at Garry Rogers Motorsport, and the opportunities he had elsewhere in the Supercars paddock that never quite came together.