By now, I am sure everyone knows about my decision to join Charlie Schwerkolt’s Irwin Racing team, and in doing so making the move to Holden.

Understandably my decision to leave Ford’s Tickford Racing has been a major talking point for Supercars fans and the media as well, and I am sure that many of you have questions you’re wanting answers to.

Hopefully this essay helps to provide clarity and insight, as well as allow me to explain the reasons behind my decision to join Team 18.

Before I jump into this particular column, I can’t continue without acknowledging the amazing 13-year partnership I enjoyed with Ford and Tickford Racing. I can’t help but smile when I look back on all the years we shared together, and what we accomplished during our tenure.

Mark Winterbottom exclusive insight

As I am sure many Australians can attest to, it’s hard leaving behind work colleagues when you accept new business and/or professional opportunities.

You build so many great relationships, that turn into friendships which go on to last forever.

That’s exactly how I feel about my time with Ford and Tickford Racing. Part of the reason why I can’t wait for the season to start is because I know I will be able to catch up with many of my former colleagues and reminisce on some great times had.

I’ll always have those great memories with me, and wish Ford and Tickford nothing but the very best.

With that being said, I am 100% content and satisfied with the decision I have made for my family and I.

Mark Winterbottom exclusive insight

I couldn’t be more excited for the Supercars season to start, so I can get behind the wheel and reignite the next phase of my career.

The strong commentary that followed after the announcement of my move from Ford to Holden highlights how passionate our fans are in the sport.

It’s a wonderful thing – I’ve always been such a massive advocate for the growth of racing in Australia, and I love that thanks to our broadcast partners, social media and various digital channels – our fans have never felt closer to the teams and respective drivers!

On the flip side of that – it’s disappointing when the commentary is misguided and doesn’t tell the full story. It’s easy to judge others when you don’t live a day in their shoes.

For us drivers, sometimes all you see is what happens on the fifteen weekends of the year when we race.

You don’t see the day-to-day struggles, or the work that goes on behind-the-scenes to turn in the best possible results on the track.

For us drivers, racing isn’t our hobby. It’s our livelihoods – and for myself, it isn’t just about me but also my wife Renee and our beautiful boys Oliver and Austin.

Mark Winterbottom with wife Renee and their two kids Oliver & Austin.

So every decision I make, doesn’t just affect me. It has a lasting impact on my entire family.

And there’s a multitude of factors that I assess when it comes to determining what is the best situation for my racing.

So what prompted my move to Irwin Racing and why did I make the switch to Holden?

I can’t speak on behalf of other drivers, but I’ve never been motivated by money. I’m incredibly privileged to have been well look-after throughout the course of my career, but money isn’t the be-and-end all for me.

There’s so much I have to take into consideration – from the team ethos and culture, to the engineers and support staff as well as the stakeholders and commercial sponsors that I partner alongside to achieve success on the track.

And I’ve always been incredibly loyal to those who I partner with – my 15 years with Ford and Tickford Racing is a testament to that.

I’ve had sponsors that I have partnered with for the same amount of time, that are continuing to support me as I make the transition to Irwin Racing. I have other sponsors who have been with me for 10 years, and are also making the jump with me to Holden. Those are all variables that are important to me.

Mark Winterbottom exclusive insight

To Charlie Schwerkolt’s credit, he identified me as the driver he wanted for his team, and he aggressively sought to satisfy those considerations that were important to my decision-making process.

He put himself in the best possible position to secure me for 2019 and beyond, and it paid off.

In the end, given the amount work Charlie had done, not just to demonstrate his interest in me but also do everything in his power to sign me – I almost had to ask myself, how can I justify not going?

Of course, I knew and totally appreciated the significant talking point that would follow given the storied rivalry between Ford and Holden. But for me I had to look at the opportunity, not the brand of the car.

The reality was, it was too good an opportunity to turn down.

Yes, it’ll be very different driving the Holden, but I’ve always been about delivering the best possible results, and have full confidence in Charlie and everyone at Team 18 that we make some serious noise this coming season.

It honestly is so surreal, this new motivation and drive, is a feeling I haven’t felt in some years.

To be 100% truthful, I was slightly frustrated where I was last year. Most people I know, change their jobs every 4-5 years because they just need a change of scenery and new challenge.

While I spent 13 incredible years in my former workplace, it was still 13 years… a very long time with little change.

BATHURST, NEW SOUTH WALES - OCTOBER 07: Mark Winterbottom driver of the #5 The Bottle-O Racing Ford Falcon FGX looks on during the top ten shootout ahead of this weekend's Bathurst 1000, which is part of the Supercars Championship at Mount Panorama on October 7, 2017 in Bathurst, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)
BATHURST, NEW SOUTH WALES – OCTOBER 07: Mark Winterbottom driver of the #5 The Bottle-O Racing Ford Falcon FGX looks on during the top ten shootout ahead of this weekend’s Bathurst 1000, which is part of the Supercars Championship at Mount Panorama on October 7, 2017 in Bathurst, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

On reflection, I feel like I was just stale last year, and although we raced until December, I knew I needed to sign elsewhere.

Now that I have, I just want to get on the track and make it work.

It’s really refreshing. There’s lots of challenges and things that I haven’t had to do for quite a few years. I am going from a team of 60, to a crew of 12. But it’s honestly great, because every person feels value knowing we are all working towards the same goal! It’s on all of us to deliver to get the result, from myself to engineers and administration.

I really never wanted to race in January before – I’m so annoyed I have to wait a couple more months, but I’m smashing myself in the gym everyday, doing everything possible to make sure I am ready to go once the time comes.

It’s been crazy few months, but I’ve enjoyed the Christmas/New Year break, and now I just can’t wait to get into my new car for a shakedown tomorrow.