A trio of Mercedes E 63 AMGs will front the starter in the 2013 V8Supercar championship – but without support from the local importer.
A bevy of news stories has hit the airwaves since last week, but now motoring.com.au can officially confirm that the still-born Erebus Motorsport tilt at the championship has been resurrected. The privately-owned operation finally agreed terms with the three-pointed star's performance arm AMG earlier this week and today officially announced it would purchase the Stone Brothers Racing (SBR) operation.
motoring.com.au has been in constant contact with Erebus Motorsport boss Ryan Maddison and Mercedes-Benz Australia throughout the saga. Now, we can lift the lid on full details.
The operation will be funded via the privately-owned local team and has the support of AMG and its arms-length racing operation, HWA. Erebus will campaign Mercedes-Benz AMG powered E-Class sedans built to V8Supercar (V8SC) Car of the Future (CotF) rules.
Mercedes-Benz Australia (MBAu) has no relationship to the squad and will not be involved in its operation or marketing. Indeed, the company was at pains to reiterate that it is not entering the series in its own right, nor would the entry be supported financially by local MBAu dealers. This is in direct contrast to incorrect reports published elsewhere.
Rather, the campaign will be entirely funded by Erebus Motorsport and commercial sponsorships. AMG factory support
will be provided via the operatio's existing international Customer Sports program. Erebus has campaigned SLS GT3 sportscars under the program for the past two years.
Despite the short timeframe, the team's E63-based cars will be completed in time for the start of the season. In fact, according to Mr Maddison, the squad will have a full complement of racers at the Clipsal 500 next March.
Erebus Motorsport has directly funded AMG/HWA's development of a V8SC-spec engine for the E-Class. The engine is essentially a de-stroked 5.0-litre version of the 6.2-litre GT3-spec V8 which powers the SLS racecar.
Though Mr Maddison confirmed the engine is yet to be dyno tested, development has already cost "well into six figures". He told motoring.com.au that Erebus and AMG are still working with V8Supercars to finalise a parity specification for the engine.
As the project has been funded by Erebus, no scope currently exists for additional E-Class racers from unaligned teams to join the SBR E-Class sedans on the V8SC grid. In practical terms, it is highly unlikely any other V8SC teams will ever have access to HWA's engine or development work.
Owned by AMG founder Hans-Werner Aufrecht, HWA is responsible for Mercedes factory DTM German touring car championship entries. It is also the builder of the current AMG SLS GT3 racers and is well known for its Benz 'specials' including the wild twin-engined A32 AMG A-Class and road-going versions of DTM and Le Mans racers.
Mr Aufrecht is himself a major figure in the ownership and administration of the DTM championship.
Erebus Motorsport boss, Ryan Maddison told motoring.com.au his operation had been working on its V8SC plans for around 12 months. He confirmed first discussions with Stone Brothers took place at this year's Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park.
Mr Maddison confirmed Erebus Motorsport has commenced negotiations to purchase the SBR business and its pair of V8SC 'licences'. The new concern will also seek to continue to operate the third V8Supercar 'licence' that SBR currently leases.
"Stone Brothers was the logical choice to partner with Erebus," Mr Maddison told motoring.com.au.
"The operation is one of the most successful and consistent teams in V8 Supercars with three titles... It has't changed or sold a racing entitlement [licence] in 13 years and has long-term relationships with key commercial partners.
"It was also a logical choice as it has no [current] direct factory involvement," Mr Maddison stated.
Under the agreement with AMG, Erebus and its SBR operation will receive technical support for the E-Class racecars' engines.
Mr Maddison confirmed Stone Brothers' existing V8SC sponsors and driver line-up would be carried over to the Erebus E-Class racers.
Erebus will also continue to campaign its SLS GT3s in the Australia GT Championship, he said.
Then MBAu spokesman David McCarthy told motoring.com.au: "The CoTF rules allow for the supply of an engine and technical support. We know that there have been discussions for the potential of this happening via a 'Customer Sports' program... [But] Mercedes-Benz has thoroughly investigated this possibility and, after serious consideration, the company has resolved that we will not be proceeding with this as it is not a 'fit' with our Australian and New Zealand brand positioning."
According to Mr McCarthy, though Erebus has now agreed terms directly with AMG in Germany to purchase parts and support via the Customer Sports program, Benz Australia's position re the championship has not changed.
"This is not a back flip – our position has not changed. Mercedes-Benz Australia has no plans to undertake any sales or marketing activities in conjunction with the series," Mr McCarthy told motoring.com.au.
"Erebus Motorsport is a valued customer. It has an existing relationship with AMG via the SLS Customer Sports program. Erebus' V8SC effort is an extension of that relationship. Mercedes Australia is not directly involved," Mr McCarthy stated.
Nissan announced its intentions to become the third manufacturer in V8SC in late 2011. Earlier this month, its motorsport partner Kelly Racing debuted the Patrol-based V8
, which will power Nissa's Altima V8Supercar. Nissan and Kelly Racing plan to debut the Altima at the 2013 series opener in Adelaide.
Nissa's new motorsport boss, Jeff Fisher, greeted the news of Erebus' entry into the series upbeat.
"Any [additional] manufacturer, we welcome. It's good for competition, it's good for us [Nissan] and it's good for the series," he stated.