Lee Holdsworth hadn’t reached a Supercars podium for over five years. Thomas Randle was only in his fourth ever main game event.
On Sunday, they combined for third in a dramatic Penrite Oil Sandown 500 – but even if they needed luck to get there, it was a result the older of the duo saw coming for some time.
Holdsworth ran fourth behind Tickford stablemate Chaz Mostert with 10 laps remaining before disaster hit race leader Shane van Gisbergen, with the #97 Red Bull Holden ZB Commodore retreating to the pits with right-rear suspension failure.
“It was nice to actually have some good luck for once, we’ve been on the wrong end of it so many times recently where we’ve been a shot at podiums,” Holdsworth said after the race.
“We’ve been building on the car all year. We started the year well off the pace, and we’ve been honing in on a set-up.
“We’ve worked really closely with [engineer Sam Scaffidi] from halfway through the year onwards, we’ve got on top of it and we roll out with a good car every round now.
“This morning, I knew we had a car that could be up the front.”
Driving with Randle, a Tickford Super2 gun 13 years his junior, has seen Holdsworth demonstrate true elder statesman status, with his younger teammate learning the ropes of the main game.
Randle impressed in a wildcard appearance at The Bend Motorsport Park earlier this season, and improved exponentially when thrown in the deep end at Mount Panorama and on the streets of the Gold Coast.
“Thomas did an amazing job yesterday and today. I’m just stoked to be back up on the podium, it’s been way too long,” Holdworth continued.
“It’s a really good feeling. I was tearing up with about six to go and I thought, ‘I’ve gotta pull myself together here because it’s not over’.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with Thomas, we’ve had a pretty solid enduro campaign. The talent that he shows, he deserves a seat in the main series.”
Randle moved from 11th to fifth in the chaotic co-driver race on Saturday, enabling Holdworth to take a measured approach to seventh for the 500km race grid.
After treading through a breathless race on Sunday, fourth loomed as the best the #5 could do – until the van Gisbergen incident threw everything in the air in The Bottle-O side of the Tickford garages.
“I was pretty nervous, because at the time, we were racing [Fabian] Coulthard, and then after the last stops, we came out in front of him,” Randle said.
“Then a couple of laps later, Chaz came out of the pits, so we knew the race was on for P3 with Chaz. They definitely had the pace over us in that last stint, and Chaz and James [Moffat] drove really well today … it’s great to have two team cars on the podium.
“Once we were in fourth, the nerves were pretty much gone, but I guess we got lucky with what happened to van Giz. But like Lee said, it’s about time the luck changed for him.”
Perhaps Supercars’ most obscure odd couple this endurance season, Holdsworth and Randle made it work, the duo finishing third in the PIRTEK Enduro Cup standings.
Randle is looking to finish his Super2 campaign on a high, potentially eyeing off a Supercars ride for 2020, while Holdsworth is firming to consolidate his top 10 place in the drivers’ standings.
For 23-year-old Randle, having the opportunity to race against the big boys meant getting as close to Holdsworth’s data and style as possible – but after enjoying a month as his co-driver, the younger of the two couldn’t leave without throwing in a jibe at his veteran co-driver’s height.
“It’s great to share the podium with Lee. Like he said, it’s been an awesome ride, and the team have been really accommodating not just with my Super2 stuff, but being a co-driver too,” Randle said.
“We knew we had a strong car this weekend. We had a strong car at Bathurst, but unfortunately luck didn’t fall our way there. Gold Coast was a bit tricky because I hadn’t been there in a Supercar before, and I didn’t want to do anything stupid.
“I signed the [co-driver] contract a lot earlier than when it was announced … I’ve been keeping close tabs on Lee, lots of rounds I’ve been following what he does and looking at his data.
“We have a very similar driving style, but he had to be the one that ran a booster seat for the enduros.”