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HOW HOLDSWORTH RETIREMENT CHANGES SILLY SEASON

LEE Holdsworth’s unexpected retirement has shaken up the Supercars silly season but not for a matter of who will take his place.

Holdsworth has long been thought to be a one-year proposition at Grove Racing, essentially filling in while the team’s protégé Matt Payne gathered more experience in the Dunlop Super2 Series.

Payne and David Reynolds thus have been the assumed 2023 pairing for the Groves.

However, news that Tim Slade and the Blanchard Racing Team are set to part ways had opened the door for a Holdsworth lifeline, last year’s Repco Bathurst 1000 winner having emerged as the early frontrunner.

Indeed, in his retirement announcement Holdsworth referred to having had “opportunities to extend my full-time Supercars career”.

But with the 39-year-old instead opting to focus on family, it’s game on for one of the few vacancies remaining for the first season of the Gen3 era.

BRT faces a driver market featuring a diverse range of options, from experienced campaigners to young guns trying to get their big break.

Among the leading free agents is Zane Goddard, who could be a strong option for the Box Hill squad.

Goddard is as familiar as any driver with the new Ford Mustang prototype having regularly been called on for Gen3 demonstration or testing outings.

Zane Goddard. Pic: Supplied

The 22-year-old showed flashes of potential through 46 races with Matt Stone Racing, headlined by a second-row start at Symmons Plains last year, before being an unlucky loser in the most recent silly season.

Importantly for a team which places a premium on presentability, Goddard is well-spoken and could be a good ambassador for the CoolDrive Auto Parts business.

The same can be said about Fabian Coulthard, who was a favourite of the Penske organisation during its time aligned with Dick Johnson Racing.

Coulthard would bring experience for a one-car team to build around, especially with brand-new machinery to work with, plus the credibility and pull of a 13-time Repco Supercars Championship winner.

Beyond those two and any current full-timer who falls out of a seat, there’s a stack of rookies for Tim Blanchard to consider.

At the top of the list are Zak Best and Declan Fraser.

Best put himself on the map with a standout wildcard performance last month at Tailem Bend; Fraser meanwhile leads the Super2 standings by more than 100 points.

Jayden Ojeda was another to impress in wildcard outings this year, while Cameron Hill and Tyler Everingham are among further Super2 frontrunners eyeing the step up.

PremiAir Racing, where Slade is tipped to land, appears to be the main other team which drivers on the outside looking in could target.

BRT finished its rookie season with Slade 12th in the championship, and he’s one position higher in 2022 with four rounds remaining.

Pic: Mark Horsburgh
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