Winterbottom coy as Team 18 speculation intensifies

Andrew van Leeuwen

Following yesterday's confirmation that he'll split with Tickford after 13 years, rumours over Winterbottom's future stepped up a gear in the Pukekohe paddock.

The front-running option appears to be a move to Charlie Schwerkolt's Team 18 outfit.

But Winterbottom himself is refusing to be drawn on the speculation, admitting that he has a preferred option for 2019 but that nothing has been signed.

"In your head you [have a preferred option], but until pen’s put on paper, nothing’s ever confirmed in this sport," he said. "Then it gets announced and that’s how it goes.

"Obviously you want to do that soon and get it out there, but you can’t announce something you haven’t done so that’s the hard part about the sport.

"Hopefully soon we can get that pen working and then announce something."

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Team 18 currently operates out of Melbourne as a single-car team, running ageing Triple Eight hardware for Lee Holdsworth.

However the relationship between driver and team has deteriorated significantly over the course of the season, with Holdsworth having already declared that he's on the market for next year.

That opens the door for a deal with Winterbottom, while the team has also been linked with technical alliances with both Triple Eight and Erebus Motorsport.

Reflecting further on the split from Tickford, Winterbottom added that his primary motivator is a change of scenery, having already ruled out money as a reason to leave.

He also said it will be tough to leave a team that he considers family after 13 years together.

"Just a change is sometimes good," he said. "I'm pretty passionate about what I do, so if you feel like you need to go or whatever, and whether that's from myself or the team, then you make that choice.

"It's emotional. When you work somewhere it's hard to walk away. You try and hang on and hang on. There's a point where you've got to make a call because next season turns up pretty damned quick.

"But it's been respectful and the way it should be. That's been the best part about it. [It will] be sad when I rock up next year and not walk in [to Tickford] because the guys are not just workers, they become family. That's probably the saddest part.

"But life moves on and you look for new challenges."