Betty Klimenko claims sexism behind SVG exit
Betty Klimenko has viciously labelled new Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen as ‘sexist’ for dipping out of a contract to drive for her Erebus team in 2013.
Klimenko has lashed out at the young Kiwi as he prepares to be officially crowned at the sport’s black-tie gala awards at Sydney’s Darling Harbour.
An upset Klimenko has made the allegation that Van Gisbergen refused to drive for Erebus because of her gender following a recent Speedcafe.com story in which the now 27-year-old opened up about his switch to Tekno Autosports over the 2012/13 off-season.
Having signed to continue at Stone Brothers Racing before it was taken over by Erebus, Van Gisbergen explained in the article that he “would have rather have stayed on the couch than raced for the new team” the following year.
THE FINAL RACE OF THE 2023 REPCO SUPERCARS CHAMPIONSHIP ON ONE OF THE WORLD’S BEST STREET CIRCUITS. GO ALL IN AT THE VAILO ADELAIDE 500, CLICK HERE TO BUY TICKETS
Seeking out Speedcafe.com to issue a public reply, Klimenko said she was “in tears” and “hysterical” when she read the comments.
Klimenko’s takeover marked a significant change for SBR, with a move from Ford Falcons to customer Mercedes-AMG equipment developed in Germany.
A immediate downturn in results followed as the team struggled with a number of teething issues on the cars which were developed in less than four months ahead of the 2013 season.
The three SBR Fords finished fifth, sixth and eighth in the 2012 championship before slumping to 20th, 22nd and 28th following the manufacturer and ownership switch.
Klimenko, however, insists that it was not the introduction of the Mercedes-AMGs that triggered Van Gisbergen’s exit.
“I was thinking about it and the only thing that changed… the crew was identical, the location was identical, the factory was identical, even Ross Stone was still there,” Klimenko told Speedcafe.com.
“Not going into manufacturers, there was one thing (different) that was not about the car and that was me, a woman.
“He’s obviously got something about racing for a woman.
“The only thing I can think of is that at the time he did not want to race for a woman and I find that to be insulting.
“I’ve worked hard to be seen as an equal in the eyes of all the owners and Supercars.
“He’s just ruined all of it in one go. He’s ruined it all.
“I thought it was very, very wrong and very sexist of him because that’s all I can think of.
“If he tells me it’s the manufacturer… no one knew what those cars were going to do.
“They could have gone out and smashed every record, he didn’t know. The only thing left was me.”
When asked by Speedcafe.com for a response to Klimenko’s comments, Van Gisbergen explained that he did not believe the Mercedes would be competitive.
“That’s completely false,” Van Gisbergen told Speedcafe.com of Klimenko’s claim that he did not want to drive for a female team owner.
“I have nothing against her I just didn’t believe in the way it was going to be done.
“Jimmy and Ross (Stone) were proven winners in Australia and you can’t just go overseas and do it better than what was being done here for 20 years.
“They (AMG) were sending everything over and no one was coming out (to Australia).
“It was absolutely nothing to do with her, I just didn’t believe in the program and the way it was going to run.
“In my eyes it was a certainty (that it would struggle). It was definitely the right call (to leave).”
Van Gisbergen also denied a claim from Klimenko that the driver knew she was taking over the team when he signed a fresh three-year agreement midway through 2012.
Klimenko stressed her frustration that Van Gisbergen had not spoken with her either during the 2012 saga or since.
“He will not talk to me, he’s never said two words to me,” she said when asked if she had confronted Van Gisbergen about his comments in the recent article.
“When I was buying Stone Brothers I tried to talk to him on quite a few occasions and he would not answer me, he just kept walking.
“He needs to grow up and understand.
“I’m a grandmother, I’m nearly 60 and I’m trying my hardest to integrate women into motorsport.
“I do talks, I do everything else and to have this young man come along and ruin all that with one article is just not right. You can’t do that.”
Erebus campaigned its Mercedes-AMGs for three seasons, scoring two race wins and a best drivers’ championship position of 14th before switching to Holdens this year.
None of the approximately 60 staff that were part of SBR in 2012 are still with Erebus, which moved from Queensland to Melbourne in the 2015/16 off-season.