V8Supercars: Stone team starts from scratch

By Ric Thompson


The new incarnation of Stone Brothers Racing, Erebus Motorsport V8, had a bit of a rough time at the opening round of the V8 Supercars 2013 season on the streets of Adelaide for the Clipsal 500.

Qualifying for race one was a mixed bag, albeit at the rear of the field with Lee Holdsworth 23rd, Tim Slade 24th and newcomer to the team, German Maro Engel, last.

Engel's race was over before it really got going with a faulty throttle (he eventually finished 28th), Holdsworth finished 17th and Slade 15th.

Things were looking up a mite, but qualifying on Sunday for the 78-lap race two didn't hint at anything good. Slade was the best of the three in 25th on the grid.

By the time the chequered flag appeared late in the afternoon Holdsworth was the last of the running V8s in the entire field, in 17th, with Slade and Engel parked in the garage.

Erebus' trials and tribulations at the opening weekend of the V8 Supercars series do, however, have to be taken in context.

Ross and Jimmy Stone had sold their SBR licence to Erebus, but Ross and the rest of the personnel were retained to fettle the three-car team.

In a remarkable three and a half months, Stone and his dedicated crew built three brand new cars from scratch, including modifying an engine to fit inside the technical rules. And to see all three cars circulating during Friday's practice was a credit to them all, as the championship-winning original SBR team have been Ford proponents through and through.

"We were only in Germany late last year looking to see if we could in fact turn an E63 Mercedes into a V8 Supercar," said Stone.

"The engines had to be re-stroked to meet the five-litre rules and we also had to fit a driver safety cell into the car build that the others didn't have to. It'll probably be in all the cars in the next few years.

"Our aim this weekend is to get all three cars to finish both days' racing. These are two of the toughest races on the calendar and 78 laps around this place are very hard on the cars.

"Although the Mercedes AMG engines produce the same power as the Fords and Holdens, the drivers are having to get used to a different power delivery as well as a car that drives differently.

"We're here to do the best we can, but also to learn as much as we can and get more out of the car. Phase one of getting the cars to the race meeting is done, and now we move on to phase two, which is development."

Stone may no longer be a part owner of a team and his job description may have changed, but to all intents and purposes he's still doing the same job.

"I'm called the general manger now but I'm still doing exactly the same stuff as I did before. The only real difference is that I don't have to worry about paying the bills or salaries.

"I don't really have a boss in the traditional sense of the word, as I'm allowed to get on with the racing side of things and am in charge of all that," said Stone.

He wears a different shirt every day at the track as he oversees all three cars. The build of the E63 car is not as simple as that of the Fords or Holdens. There are a number of requisites in the cockpit that are distinctive to the Mercedes AMG cars including the steering wheel.

The big change for both the mechanics and drivers is the throttle set-up on the Merc engine - it has two throttle bodies. This set-up changes the driveability of the car and it takes a bit longer to get driveability out of the corners as the power comes on.

"Admittedly, all the engines are done in Germany and arrive in a box but we have a lot of wriggle room to change things for each circuit," said Stone. "We work really closely with the people in Germany and it's a really good relationship. We can change quite a lot because there's a lot of computer stuff we can modify.

"The head of the engine shop [Mercedes in Germany] is out here this weekend and we've had an engineer with us for about eight weeks so we've got a good idea how it all works.

"Also, we will service all the engines here in Australia."

One thing worth mentioning is the cars sound magnificent. The noise is similar to a Formula One car, in part due to the exhaust configuration but also the shape of the crankshaft.

They have what is called a flat-plane crank as opposed to most V8s that have a 90-degree crank. It has more in common with a four-cylinder crank than a V8. It had to stay that way, because Mercedes has never built an engine with a conventional crank so the V8SC technical rules were modified to allow the difference.

Trying to get a new car and new engine up and running is difficult enough. To then get the package to be competitive is a whole new ball game - and all this is done in the public arena under the glare of the media spotlight. Not an easy task.

Lee Holdsworth will be hoping for better things after the Clipsal 500.

- Hamilton News

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