Erebus push unhindered by financial plight

Thursday 22nd May, 2014 - 4:00am

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Holdsworth and Davison battle it out in Perth

Holdsworth and Davison battle it out in Perth

Crucial engine development work designed to propel Erebus Motorsport to the front of the V8 Supercars grid continues despite recent uncertainty over the team’s future.

The squad’s cars have shown improved form this year following a move to bring its previously German-based AMG engine program in-house, taking a maiden win at Winton last month.

The Winton event, however, also threw the spotlight on the team’s financial plight, with owner Betty Klimenko revealing that running the team without primary sponsors had plunged her into “personal debt”.

Although the viability of the operation remains in question, Speedcafe.com understands that Klimenko has secured family-sourced funding in recent weeks to guarantee the squad’s short-term future.

Klimenko was absent from last weekend’s Perth 400 – the first V8 Supercars event she has missed since purchasing the formerly Stone Brothers Racing outfit – as she underwent a hand operation in Sydney.

The Lee Holdsworth and Will Davison-driven E63s again took to the track without primary commercial partners at the West Australian venue.

Erebus CEO Ryan Maddison told Speedcafe.com in Perth that the sponsorship situation is “not a contributing factor to our on track performance”, with development continuing unabated at the team’s Queensland workshop.

“Our planning right now is absolutely to finish the year as strongly as possible into next year, otherwise we would not be spending the money on performance,” he told Speedcafe.com when asked if the team is guaranteed to see out the season.

“We’re focussed on making sure we go fast and we’re consistent. We’re looking forward to the enduros and finishing a solid year.

“Hopefully in that period we’re able to attract businesses towards our space and lock (commercial) relationships away.”

Maddison stressed that Erebus is not the only team hurting financially in the current environment, which has seen no direct financial dividend to Racing Entitlements Contract holders forthcoming from V8 Supercars either this year or last.

Although the team is known to have directly discussed its situation with V8 Supercars prior to Barbagallo, the category’s REC agreement prevents the category from directly helping individual teams.

“I think the clearest and most evident sign of the times is that the category is now at 25,” said Maddison of the overall picture.

“Regardless of what any individual will tell you about the pain that they’re going through, I’d suggest that 99 percent of the teams up and down pitlane are going through financial (difficulties). If not, then 100 percent of the teams are definitely looking at their status.

“As REC holders, we’ve all got businesses to run. We’ve all got due diligence.

“Although we go racing against each other, we are a group of REC holders involved in V8 Supercars, so we all have a responsibility to each other.

“With the team owner meetings that we’re having, everyone is aware of the status up and down pitlane.

“I’m sure that there are a lot of people that have a similar consideration to what we have with what our budgets are.”

Although the engine development work continues, it remains unclear when the latest package of upgrades will make its track debut.

Erebus general manager Ross Stone, who has headed up development since the migration of the engine program to Queensland, told Speedcafe.com that the timing will firm in the coming weeks.

“We’re working on bits and pieces now and when it’s ready, it’s ready,” he said.

“We’ve got a target of when we’d like to see it in the cars, but it depends on how the next few weeks go and whether everything falls into place.”

Stone believes that the latest work will be enough to elevate the Mercedes-AMGs into the realm of consistent front-runners.

“We’re a pretty soft target at the moment,” he said.

“The cars are pretty good and the engine is not bad, but we need to find a bit more to be consistently challenging for the podium.”

The team has its first test day of the season slated for early next month ahead of the Skycity Triple Crown in Darwin on June 20-22.