Motorsport: Kiwis on grid with Mercedes

By Eric Thompson

Aim is to have three Stone Brothers cars in Adelaide V8 race come April.

Erebus Motorsport chief Ryan Maddison (left) and SBR's Ross Stone with the Mercedes engine the new car will use. Photo / Supplied
Erebus Motorsport chief Ryan Maddison (left) and SBR's Ross Stone with the Mercedes engine the new car will use. Photo / Supplied

While the announcement of a Mercedes-badged race car joining the V8 Supercars fray next year has been met with some excitement, a moment's thought has to be spared for the bloke who has to actually make it happen.

After months of rumours suggesting Mercedes were not entering the category, a press conference by Stone Brothers Racing owner Ross Stone, Erebus Motorsport owner Betty Klimenko and chief executive Ryan Maddison and V8 Supercars chairman Tony Cochrane announced it was game on.

It's long been known Ford were looking to cut back on their motorsport commitments in the V8 series, and with the blue oval's contract with SBR coming to an end this year, it only made sense that the Kiwi-run team would be an option for Erebus.

Other teams may have been in the reckoning as a home for the AMG-prepared, Mercedes-engineered car of the future, but SBR are the third best team in the championship and have a stable of three very quick drivers including New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen.

Maddison is the man who has been tasked to get all the logistics in place to make sure there are three AMG-Mercedes race cars sitting on the grid come the opening round of the V8 Supercars series next April. Not a task to be taken lightly.

"There's a lot of work to done between now and next year," said Maddison.

"I've seen a lot of spread sheets with a lot of milestones but that's what motorsport is. Some of us don't know if it's am or pm but we've got a lot of energy and we definitely have the assets to pull it together in the timeline we have.

"Up until now the most stressful thing has been getting official approval so we could make the announcement. That was going to be the biggest hurdle affecting the production side of things. We've committed to having three cars on the grid at Clipsal [Adelaide] so if the hours are available we'll get it done."

When the Erebus outfit decided to go racing it wasn't with the intention of using the GT championship as a stepping stone into V8 Supercars.

They arrived in the Australian GT championship with a hiss and roar in the spectacular looking and sounding Gullwing SLS AMG car. It wasn't long before the team proved to have the car and drivers to beat and Peter Hackett leads the series after five rounds.

"The intention has always been, and continues, to represent the GT category and obviously we would like to dominate it. Through our results it got us a lot of credibility with Customer Sports and AMG.

"That paved the way for us to talk to them about other business including getting into V8 Supercars. They were keen but it was a bit of an unknown to start with and there was a bit of scepticism," said Maddison.

"Things took a massive step forward in April this year when I got to sit down with Customer Sports and then we spoke with V8 Supercars and said we weren't kidding," he said.

SBR have a long, rich history in V8 Supercars racing having won three championships and been there, or thereabouts, for several other years.

Some have suggested the move to get into bed with Erebus is the start of an exit strategy for Stone Brothers, but if racing's in your blood it's hard to down tools and walk away.

"We wanted a creditable, fast start to our programme and that's where the obvious choice of Stone Brothers Racing came from," said Maddison.

"It started with a conversation I had with Ross [Stone] at the Grand Prix meeting where we threw around a few scenarios.

"At the end of the day they're third in the championship and the other teams ahead have strong factory associations. Also, their pedigree alone speaks for itself and effectively they are the best team to put ourselves with to get what we want and our aim's for success," he said.

"As far as everyone is concerned, Ross and Jimmy aren't going anywhere and they are as excited about the new direction as we are."

Erebus will have two of the youngest and arguably best prospects in the category in van Gisbergen and Tim Slade to slide behind the wheel of the new cars. They also have the experienced Lee Holdworth to pilot the third entry come the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide next year and he's no slouch.

"I think we have one of the strongest driver lineups for a multi-car team. I'm supremely confident with the three drivers we have and there is absolutely no need or desire to review that side of the business.

"I hope what we're bringing to the table will only enhance their talents. They're a really good bunch of guys and I'm looking forward to working with them. Shane [van Gisbergen] is one of the hottest properties in the category right now," said Maddison.

V8 Supercars needs the AMG-Mercedes powered cars, along with the Kelly Brothers Nissan entry, to be on the pace almost from the get go. It's a big ask but one that needs to be met, for if they take a season to get up to speed, the Ford and Holden fans will have much to talk about over the stubbies on a Sunday afternoon.

- NZ Herald

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