LEE Holdsworth was treated to a surprise opportunity to reminisce almost precisely 48 hours out from his 500th Repco Supercars Championship race start.
Awaiting him at Sandown this afternoon was his Grove Racing crew huddled around the Supercar in which he made his main game debut way back in 2004.
Holdsworth is the first to admit there’s been plenty of ups and downs in his journey to the 500 club, of which he’ll become the 11th member.
“The lows make it more special when you actually bounce back. I’ve had to bounce back a lot in my career and try to find other opportunities to keep rejuvenating my career,” he told V8 Sleuth.
“I think I’ve had probably as many challenges as anyone in this sport and to still be on the grid, I’m pretty proud of what I’ve achieved.”
To get in the spirit, V8 Sleuth brings you the cars in which Holdsworth has made his milestone starts.
Start #1: Smiths Trucks VY Commodore, 2004 Sandown 500
Sandown was in fact the site of Holdsworth’s very first Supercars Championship start, sharing the BAM BAM chassis with Phil Scifleet.
The pair would only make it a tenth of the way through the 160-lapper before an engine issue cut their day short – but Holdsworth was off the mark and headed for bigger and better things.
Start #100: Garry Rogers Motorsport VE Commodore, 2008 Ipswich 400 Race 3
By now, Holdsworth was into his third full-time campaign and was already a race winner.
To celebrate his century, he enjoyed a solid run to 10th.
Start #200: Stone Brothers Racing Falcon FG, 2012 Tasmania Challenge Race 1
After his first 197 races all came with Holden, Holdsworth crossed the brand divide ahead of the 2012 season to link up with Ford-powered Stone Brothers Racing.
He quickly became a frequent top five challenger… but another Blue Oval season would not eventuate until 2019.
Start #300: Erebus Motorsport Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, 2014 Sydney 500 Race 2
Having stayed on as SBR transitioned to Erebus, Holdsworth’s 300th came in his final weekend in Mercedes machinery.
Start #400: Team 18 ZB Commodore, 2018 Winton SuperSprint Race 2
Reacquainted with Holden, Holdsworth spent four years spearheading Charlie Schwerkolt’s single-car squad.
Start #500: Grove Racing Mustang GT, 2022 Sandown SuperSprint Race 1
A long-awaited Bathurst 1000 win last year set Holdsworth on the path to a full-time return with Grove Racing in 2022.
His 500th race is due to come in the first leg of the Sandown SuperSprint this Saturday.
That will entrench him in exclusive company alongside several 500-plus starters Craig Lowndes, Garth Tander, Russell Ingall, Rick Kelly, Jason Bright, Mark Winterbottom, Jamie Whincup, Todd Kelly, James Courtney and Will Davison.
Silly season talk has the 39-year-old potentially on the move yet again, with Matt Payne tipped to be driving Grove Racing’s #10 car next year while Holdsworth has been linked to the Blanchard Racing Team.
Regardless, he is likely not done just yet.
“I only want to be in this sport if I’m competitive and I’ve got motivation and the drive to run up the front,” he said today.
“I don’t want to just be a number. I think I have still got that ability: I feel like I am racing better than ever, I feel as fit as ever.
“We’ll see what next year brings.”