MICHAEL Caruso will join Charlie Schwerkolt’s Team 18 as a co-driver for October’s Repco Bathurst 1000.
The team has confirmed the recruitment of Caruso on a two-year deal and the retention of James Golding, who co-drove with Mark Winterbottom at Bathurst last year.
Caruso moves to Team 18 following a two-year stint co-driving at Tickford Racing, driving with Cameron Waters in 2019 and Lee Holdsworth in 2020.
The signing of Caruso means the end of Dean Fiore’s time at Team 18 having co-driven in 2020 with Scott Pye.
Although Team 18 has not confirmed its pairings, it’s expected that Caruso will partner Winterbottom and Golding will move to Pye’s entry.
Caruso’s deal comes after his former home Tickford trimmed back from four to three cars for 2021. It already has co-drivers James Moffat and Thomas Randle under contract.
Sponsor Boost Mobile is expected to play a role in deciding the co-driver for James Courtney’s car, while ousted full-timer Holdsworth is understood to have signed to co-drive at Walkinshaw Andretti United.
Said Team 18 owner Schwerkolt: “It’s really exciting to bring Michael Caruso onboard for Bathurst this year, he’s a seriously talented driver and a valuable addition to our co-driver line-up.
“It’s a two-year deal which is great to have that continuity within the team, and he fits the mould as a fantastic team player.
“He’s going to be a busy man between his TCR racing and completing our ride days and test days throughout the year, so his speed and race-craft will be sharp by the time we get to Bathurst.
“James Golding showed strong speed last year with us and we immediately looked to retain his services in 2021.
“I’d like to thank Dean Fiore for his outstanding efforts last year, he fit in so well with our team and performed extremely well with Scott [Pye] at Bathurst.”
Caruso pointed to the strength of the team’s staff as a major asset ahead of its second season as a two-car team, running Triple Eight-built Holden Commodores.
Holden’s racing heritage is celebrated in ‘Racing the Lion’, a 400-page illustrated book now available through the V8 Sleuth store.
“When you come here and see how the team operates and the progress being made behind the scenes, it was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse,” said Caruso.
“Charlie’s very motivated about his motor racing, he’s been very successful in the past, he understands what it takes to achieve that success and you can see what he’s building with the guys and girls here in the team that they’re heading in the right direction.
“When you look at the names that are here, you’ve got Phil Keed and now with Richard Hollway joining, it’s an amazing leadership group with Steve Henderson as team manager as well, you can see everyone in the core group gets along and I think that’s a crucial part to it all.”
Golding meanwhile stays at Team 18 after failing to find a full-time seat on the 2021 grid.
“I have the ultimate focus of getting back in a full-time seat, unfortunately nothing lined up for 2021 but that remains my focus and I think Team 18 is a great platform to show what I can do as well as racing the S5000 to keep my name out there,” he said.
“It’s all about being in the right place at the right time, and I think Team 18 is the right place to show what I can do as a driver and I hope to make the most of this opportunity.”