Welcome back to Race Chaser Online’s 2014 V8 Supercars Championship Preview! We start Tuesday with a look at the series’ Mercedes outfit, Erebus Motorsport.
#4 – Lee Holdsworth, Fuchs/ The Children’s Hospital Erebus E63 AMG
#9 – Will Davison, BEKO/ Citizen Watch Erebus E63 AMG
2013 TEAM POINTS FINISH: 11th
2013 HIGHLIGHT MOMENT: Lee Holdsworth’s 4th-place finish at Bathurst
Erebus Motorsport really has nowhere to go but up in 2014.
Regular followers of the V8 Supercars Championship will remember that this team was originally the famed Stone Brothers Racing outfit just two seasons ago. Stone Brothers Racing made their name in the series between 2003 and 2005, when Russell Ingall and Marcos Ambrose both won V8SC drivers’ titles and the team won back to back team championships, However, SBR slipped in the seasons following the departures of Ingall and Ambrose, and the Stone Brothers only grew older.
Seeking to step down from his full-time duties as team manager, Ross Stone announced plans to sell the team to Australian GT racing outfit Erebus Motorsport and switch from Ford to brand-new customer program Mercedes cars for 2013. The majority of SBR’s personnel would stay with the new team, and Ross would stay involved in an advisory role. Team members and fans were hoping that the move would allow SBR to jump up into the top tier of teams and compete right alongside Red Bull Racing Australia and Ford Performance Racing as one of the top teams in the series.
While that “jump” is still a possibility, it did not come immediately. Erebus Motosport’s 2013 season was abysmal by all standards. Performance for all three cars dropped significantly from what the SBR Fords posted in 2012. There were no podiums, few top ten finishes, and a lot of time spent in the positions from 20th on back. Erebus spent the season fighting their own cars (their lack of reliability and slow pace in particular) almost as much as they fought the rest of the field (and the accidents that they were caught up in).
Given the struggles from a season ago, Erebus Motosport underwent a slew of changes for 2014. The team downsized from 3 cars to two, as James Rosenberg Racing let their REC agreement with Erebus run out at the end of 2013 (that car, and its driver, Tim Slade, signed a deal to move their REC to Walkinshaw Racing). Furthermore, driver Maro Engel was released after a disappointing 2013. Primary sponsor SP Tools also departed Erebus Motorsport, jumping to Holden Racing Technologies for the 2014 season.
Although there were many departures from Erebus, the team made one significant addition: driver Will Davison joins Erebus Motorsport from Ford Performance Racing to drive Engel’s old car from a season ago. Davison also brings along personal sponsor Citizen Watches as a primary sponsor for his 2014 car. Davison’s move was the most significant driver change in the 2013 offseason, and drew some question marks from fans everywhere.
In making the switch from FPR to Erebus, Davison moves from a team that finished second in the points standings and gave Red Bull Racing Australia a fight for the title up until the final two race weekends of 2013 to a team with a lot of questions surrounding them going into the season. Erebus came nowhere close to matching the performance of FPR at any point in 2013, so fans were left asking why Davison would move from such a strong team to a much weaker one. The answer is actually relatively simple: Davison wanted to be a “number one driver” on a V8 Supercars team, and he believes that Erebus has a lot gain in this season and beyond.
At FPR, Davison was the “number two” driver behind Mark Winterbottom. However, he was able to match Winterbottom’s pace in multiple races over the season and was not always FPR’s “number two” on the race track. Davison didn’t feel like he would get a fair shot at being the top driver at FPR, so he switched to Erebus, a team where he will be the clear “number one” driver.
Erebus arguably had the most difficult “path” to the 2013 season of any V8SC team — they had to integrate a brand new team and new management in Erebus, build cars from a brand-new manufacturer in Mercedes, and do it all without factory support (unlike the Nissan teams, Erebus was and is actually a customer racing program of AMG). No other team had to manage as many unknowns as Erebus did last season.
Coming into 2014, there will be far less unknowns in the organization- they now have a full season of racing experience with the Mercedes, and still have many of the successful and talented team members that made up the Stone Brothers Racing organization that was so successful two seasons ago. The stability should allow Erebus to focus less on establishing their program and more on improving what they already have.
As a result, Erebus Motorsport should have a much more successful 2014 than 2013, and should begin to work their way back towards the front of the V8SC field. Holdsworth, for one, should see marked improvements over his 2013 season. As for Davison, it’s unlikely that his Erebus car will immediately be able to match the performance of his FPR car from a season ago. But he should be the harbinger of Erebus’ return to form this season, and will look to place his car right around the top 10 on a weekly basis.
Erebus’ return to form in the V8 Supercars Championship will begin by working towards matching the season they had with SBR in 2012; once they hit that mark, then they can push on towards the vision they had when the project started a year and a half ago. It will take some time, but the talent and experience is there to make Erebus Motorsport a top team in the V8 Supercars Series in the seasons to come.
For more information on Erebus Motorsport, please visit http://www.erebusmotorsportv8.com.