LEE Holdsworth will retire as a Repco Supercars Championship full-timer at season’s end in an unexpected move.
The 2021 Bathurst 1000 winner was widely expected to shift from Grove Racing to the Blanchard Racing Team next year.
Holdsworth, who earlier this month joined Supercars’ exclusive 500 club, will see out the current season in the #10 Penrite Racing Mustang before switching back to co-driver status.
The veteran had rejoined the grid on a full-time basis with Grove Racing this year after spending 2021 as a co-driver with Walkinshaw Andretti United.
The 39-year-old thanked his loyal supporters, reserving particular praise for Rob Smith and Garry Rogers for kickstarting his career, and cited family reasons as the chief factor behind his decision.
“After considerable thought, I have now made the difficult decision to call it a day on my career as a full-time Supercars driver,” he explained.
“I’ve lived and breathed this sport since I was six years old and had the privilege of being a Supercars driver for over 17 years.
“It’s required huge sacrifices, hard work and commitment, but above all else it’s required enormous support from my family. For that I am extremely grateful.
“Despite opportunities to extend my full-time Supercars career, I feel the time is right to focus on a future outside motorsport and devoting more time to my wife Alana and our children, Ava and Riley, as they grow up.”
Having debuted at the 2004 Sandown 500, Holdsworth has chalked up three solo race wins across stints at Garry Rogers Motorsport, Stone Brothers Racing/Erebus Motorsport, Team 18, Tickford Racing and Grove Racing.
His 2021 Mount Panorama triumph came with WAU after being bumped out of Tickford’s roster and led to his career lifeline with the Groves.
“Once the opportunity presented itself to have Lee in Grove Racing to help facilitate our development in 2022, we quickly moved to secure his experience,” said Stephen Grove.
“He’s genuinely a racer at heart and I am looking forward to him working with Matt Payne for the Bathurst 1000. I’d love to see him keep driving but understand the direction he wants to go at this stage in his life.
“His experience has been a real asset to the team this year as we continue to grow. We now want to focus on giving him the best possible package to go out on the high that he deserves in his full-time career.”
Holdsworth already has the next step in his career lined up, having secured a role in real estate while absent from the full-time Supercars grid last year.
“At the conclusion of the 2022 championship, I will focus on the next chapter of my life,” he said.
“This will include furthering my career with CBRE Commercial Real Estate, and of course, returning in 2023 and beyond as a co-driver to again set out to win the Bathurst 1000.”
Holdsworth’s retirement paves the way for Grove Racing to promote Matt Payne into its main game line-up.
More of a question mark now, however, is who BRT turns to, given Tim Slade’s likely departure.