Motorsport: Rolling stones

By Eric Thompson

Eric Thompson looks at a dramatic V8 switch

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

It's all change in the V8 Supercars next year, with new cars, new drivers and new manufacturers. And one of the leading teams, Stone Brothers Racing, is making one of the biggest changes in the category's history.

After 17 years with Ford race engines, Ross and Jimmy Stone are parking up the Falcon and moving to a European manufacturer.

The decision to leave the blue oval family will be a wrench for many fans, but it also can't have been an easy decision for the Kiwi brothers.

The Stones thought long and hard about moving to AMG Mercedes, and realised that's where the future of their sport lies.

"When we started in 1993, half the cars on the road were Ford or Falcon," said Ross Stone. "Things have changed now and we have to hit the reset button.

"It's good timing for us to move to a new manufacturer now but it was hard. I went to Melbourne to meet Ford president Bob Graziano and all the other folk involved and they were really good.

We had a good talk and worked our way through it all. Our Ford deal has been unbroken, and they've been a fantastic partner.

"The last time other manufacturers were allowed to race it was like apples and oranges. This time everything is identical and it's completely different to last time.

"You're not going to have the difference of four-wheel drive against two or turbo against non-turbo. It was all too hard."

The Stones have been in motorsport for a long time, and it's not surprising considering they're good Pukekohe lads.

When the old Australian Touring Car Championship was morphing into V8 Supercars in the early 1990s, Ross was team manager at Dick Johnston Racing.

While he was sorting out the Sierra, he asked Jimmy to come on board and complete the Falcon project.

When the first car was built, Ross and Jimmy went to the Lakeside track in Queensland to test the Ford.

There, as the result of a radio station mentioning the test was happening, they were confronted by thousands of people.

"I knew the thing [V8 Supercars] would work all those years ago especially after the Lakeside test. We just couldn't believe it.

"There was another time at Eastern Creek when we tested that reiterated it was going to work. When the car was coming down the hill the noise was just brilliant.

"And over the years, after doing the market research, it's been proven the sound of the cars is very important.

" We've been involved in the Ford and Holden rivalry since 1993, and again knew that was something the fans would like."

Today, the noise is still a factor, but there's also the business side to consider.

"We've got 47 people working for us and we're self contained," said Ross.

"We've always done our own engines, and some for other teams but things are changing now.

"Our engine shop won't be doing the engines any more as initially they're being done in Germany and will arrive in a box.

That's the process we have to go through [dropping the engine into the car] and the first engine is due to arrive the week before Christmas.

"Then it has to go on a dyno to be checked for parity. We don't have a lot of time to get this sorted."

The Stones brothers were at the vanguard of V8 Supercars racing in the 1990s and it seems they know a good thing when they see it.

Says Ross: "Opening up the category can only be a good thing - the more the merrier."

- NZ Herald

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