LEE HOLDSWORTH SCORES FULL-TIME SUPERCARS RETURN

Lee Holdsworth joins Grove Racing for 2022. Pic: Supplied

BATHURST-winning co-driver Lee Holdsworth will return to the Repco Supercars Championship full-time in 2022, having signed with Grove Racing.

Holdsworth joins David Reynolds in the two-car Ford Mustang squad, replacing the Brad Jones Racing-bound Andre Heimgartner.

The 38-year-old Holdsworth has inked a one-season deal while the team’s academy driver, 19-year-old Kiwi Matt Payne, earns his stripes in the Dunlop Super2 Series ahead of a 2023 graduation.

It marks an unexpected chance for Holdsworth, who won this month’s Repco Bathurst 1000 as co-driver to Chaz Mostert at Walkinshaw Andretti United after losing his regular ride at the end of 2020.

WAU released Holdsworth from the second year of his co-driving contract so that he could take the Grove Racing seat.

Holdsworth returns to full-time driving. Pic: Supplied

“I’m blown away by this opportunity and I can’t wait to get back full-time into the Supercars Championship,” said Holdsworth.

“My full-time campaign was cut short at the end of 2020 and it certainly wasn’t the way I imagined bowing out from the sport.

“I’ve now got a great opportunity with Grove Racing to finish off my full-time career in Supercars while playing an important role in helping the team move forward for the future.

“Although sitting on the sidelines wasn’t much fun, winning the Bathurst 1000 made up for it!

“As soon as I got a phone call from Stephen (Grove, team principal) about driving with them full-time in 2022, I knew it was a challenge I wanted to accept.”

Holdsworth is on a one-year deal. Pic: Supplied

Grove described Holdsworth as the “perfect fit” for his squad, which transitions to full Grove ownership in 2022 after operating as a 50:50 partnership with the Kelly family this season.

“Lee is one of the most experienced drivers in the field, and at this point of our team’s development, and with the implementation of the Grove Junior Team, we wanted to have an experienced driver, a leader off the track and most importantly, someone we know will work with our team to drive forward,” said Grove.

“Lee ticks all of those boxes. His resume speaks for itself and we can’t wait to get into the Supercars Championship with him and David Reynolds next year.”

Holdsworth competed full-time in Supercars from 2006, spending stints at Garry Rogers Motorsport, Stone Brothers Racing, Erebus Motorsport, Team 18 and Tickford Racing, and is keen to apply his experience.

Holdsworth settles in at Grove Racing. Pic: Supplied

“I’ve got an important role to play in the team for next year, and I’m excited by that,” he said.

“Having the chance to partner David Reynolds, who I know is one of the fastest drivers in the field, and help build this new team up to be a future force in the championship is very exciting.

“You can see Grove Racing is leaving nothing on the table.

“They have good cars, some new engineering and management talent, and they are building up their young driver program too, so I’m looking forward to being a part of the whole program.

“Hopefully I can use some of my experience to help drive the team forward.”

Holdsworth will have his first taste of Grove Racing machinery at a test in the new year.

Although revealed as the team’s new driver in Penrite colours, Grove Racing is yet to confirm a major sponsor for Holdsworth’s entry.

The Bathurst podium. Pic: Nathan Wong

WAU must meanwhile find a replacement for Holdsworth in order to defend its Bathurst crown next year.

“While it’s certainly disappointing not to have Lee with us in 2022, we are rapt that he gets another full time opportunity on the grid next year, and we wouldn’t want to stand in the way of that,” said WAU team principal Bruce Stewart.

“He certainly showed his talent in 2021, so is very deserving of this opportunity, and we look forward to competing against him full time next year. 

“No one will forgot what he and Chaz were able to do at Bathurst, helping us bring the Peter Brock Trophy back to Clayton, so we hope that we see him back in the WAU family once again in the future.”