Lee Holdsworth says the end of his full-time Supercars career after 15 years came as a “shock” as his Tickford Racing squad scales back to three entries for 2021.
The 37-year-old, a three-time race winner, joined Tickford in 2019 as a replacement for Mark Winterbottom.
His two-year stint yielded three podium finishes and a provisional pole for last year’s Bathurst 1000, but he missed out on a seat for the 2021 season after the team was unsuccessful in securing a fourth Racing Entitlements Contract to replace the one sold by former 23Red boss Phil Munday – whose entry had been operated by Tickford since 2019 – to Brad Jones Racing.
Tickford formerly had four of its own RECs, but handed one back to Supercars ahead of the 2019 season so it could run Munday’s entry, which was campaigned by Will Davison until the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a withdrawal of title sponsor Milwaukee Tools.
Autosport understands that Tickford’s attempts to secure an additional REC met resistance from rivals who didn’t want to expand the grid to 25 cars.
That means there will be just three full-time Tickford cars this season, driven by Jack Le Brocq, Cam Waters and James Courtney.
“We are very grateful to have worked with Lee the past two seasons, and are equally saddened to confirm we will not be racing together in 2021.” said Tickford Racing CEO Tim Edwards.
“Along with his ability behind the wheel, Lee’s been one of the most well-liked people in our garage and in pitlane.
“Our crew, sponsors, and members have only good things to say about him, and we’ll certainly miss having him in the garage and workshop in 2021.
“We wish Lee all the best for the year to come, and look forward to seeing him at the track as a friend in the near future.”
Holdsworth took to social media in the wake of the news, labelling the sudden end of his full-time career as a “shock”. He also signalled his intent to land a top Bathurst 1000 co-driver role.
“After 15 years of Supercars, it’s all come to an end,” he wrote.
“It’s come as a shock and it feels premature, but that’s the way it’s played out.
“I’ve been fortunate to have such a long stint in the sport and I am extremely grateful to those who have been a part of it.
“I’ve met some awesome people along the way… lifelong friends, great sponsors, and amazing fans.
“I haven’t ticked off winning the Bathurst 1000 yet, but you can bet your arse I’ll be back this year with the best chance yet!
“Big thank you to all the hard working people at Tickford Racing. I’ve really enjoyed the last few years working together.
Holdsworth made his full-time Supercars debut with Garry Rogers Motorsport back in 2006, taking a maiden race win at Oran Park the following season.
He added another win for GRM at Homebush in 2010 (above), before making a high-profile move to Stone Brothers Racing for the 2012 season.
That, however, was just a year before the team was sold and became Erebus Motorsport, which initially struggled with its Mercedes hardware.
There was a win at Winton in 2014 amid a tough run of form, before he teamed up with Charlie Schwerkolt at Team 18.
That too failed to provide regular front-running results, Tickford eventually throwing a lifeline to Holdsworth when Winterbottom left at the end of 2018.