Tim Slade’s confirmed departure to Walkinshaw Racing leaves Erebus Motorsport V8 fielding both local and international offers to replace him as it decides whether to stick at three entries for the 2014 V8 Supercars Championship, drop to two cars or expand to four.
Performance gains and commercial realities seem certain to drive the decision whether any new driver or drivers will join Lee Holdsworth and Maro Engel in the Erebus Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG lineup next year.
Team owner Betty Klimenko told v8supercars.com.au that her initial instinct was probably to drop back to two cars.
“Three is a really weird number, two and four is always better, but I don’t know if I want to go to four,” she said.
“We inherited three cars, with all the contracts, all the sponsors and everything, it wasn’t like we started fresh. So in some ways it has been cleaned up for us and we can go out there and do our thing, do the Erebus thing.
“But truthfully I don’t know, it all depends.”
Orthodox V8 logic is that two or four cars is preferable to three because of economies of scale. Run three cars and you have to hire almost enough crew to handle the four cars anyway and you don’t fill your second transporter.
However, the transporter issue is partially dealt with at Erebus at the moment because the team runs a V8 ute as well.
Erebus Motorsport CEO Ryan Maddison told v8supercars.com.au the announcement of Slade’s departure last week had increased the level of both local and international enquiry about a potential seat at the team in 2014.
“Even when the speculation started around Tim and what’s occurring there we were already fielding enquiries, not just domestically but off-shore also.
“Making that announcement or confirming that late last week, it only increased the level of interest both domestically and internationally.”
There is a panoply of both foreign drivers and overseas-based Aussies who might be sniffing around an Erebus drive. Locals who could qualify include uncontracted Ford star Will Davison, rising Ford rookie Chaz Mostert, Walkinshaw enduro driver Nick Percat, Slade’s Supercheap Auto predecessor Russell Ingall and Dean Fiore, who could also bring his REC with him if required.
If Erebus does decide to sign a new driver or drivers, Maddison stressed long term stability would be part of the deal and the same applied to any new commercial relationships “rather than go through this cycle again in eight months time”.
“There is no doubt we will have plan A and plan B pretty well pieced together over the next two to four weeks,” he said “But we won’t be making any hard and fast and strategic planning decisions until we get to the lead up to Phillip Island.”
Maddison said each of the potential structures had to be assessed in terms of the performance gain they delivered.
“There has always been in the sport the belief that multiple vehicles should give you greater information. Well, we need to evaluate whether that is the case for where our program is at.
“Certainly that may work for other manufacturers/teams up and down pitlane, but at the moment with the phase we are in and the intentions going into next year it definitely means we will look at that.”
The economic situation within the category will also play a role in the decision, Maddison confirmed. That’s a reference to the fact license and other income streams from the championship to teams are minimal at the moment.
“Clearly it has been a significant investment from Betty to get the team off the ground and to this point,” he added. “It’s time we start looking fairly frugally at what we need to achieve for next year and whether that works for or against performance.”