Aaren Russell vows to return

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 20/07/2016
  • By Supercars

Rookie racer Aaren Russell is determined to return to the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship in 2017.

The 24-year old’s 2016 VASC campaign came to a premature halt this week when the split between his family’s team AR Racing and Erebus Motorsport was confirmed.

Veteran Craig Baird, who is due to share the driving duties in the #9 Penrite Holden Commodore VF with David Reynolds, has been subbed in to drive Russell’s #4 entry at the Coates Hire Ipswich SuperSprint this weekend.

At this stage Baird will race at Ipswich only, with the car carrying naming rights sponsorship from existing Erebus sponsor Hungry Jack’s. Shae Davies will also drive the car at Ipswich as he continues to prepare for his Pirtek Enduro cup co-driver role.

As the owner of two Racing Entitlements Contracts (RECs), Erebus needs to race two cars in every VASC event or face significant fines.

Russell had been racing under the second team REC, with funding provided by naming rights sponsor Plus Fitness and the family business, Go-Karts-Go.

But a dispute over sponsorship activation between Plus Fitness owner John Fuller and Erebus owner Betty Klimenko in Townsville, which led to the national gymnasium chain’s signage appearing on the Lucas Dumbrell Commodores, was first sign of a crack in the relationship that led to this week’s split.

“Well the dreams over for now,” Russell wrote on Facebook. “I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty but I'm happy with everyone's decision.

“I have to thank Plus Fitness for everything they have done for me and will continue to do for me. They have my back and I have theirs.

“As for Erebus, I wish them all the best for the remainder of the year, unfortunately it didn't quite plan out the way we both expected, and our views differed from what we first agreed to but things have ended on a positive note.”

Russell has had a tough baptism of fire in the VASC, qualifying and running consistently near the back of the field in the ex-Walkinshaw Commodore, which was maintained by Erebus but owned by the family and funded on a tight budget.

The team has retained the car for the balance of the season.

Russell currently sits 26th in the championship with a best qualifying position of 22nd and a best finish of 17th.

He copped a significant amount of criticism after unlapping himself late in the Sunday race in Western Australia from leader Mark Winterbottom and then briefly holding him up.

But Russell was defiant then and remains so now about his venture into the big league of Australian racing.

“The dream may be over for now, but I'm not giving up,” he wrote. “I am not a quitter. For all the doubters I have not got to the position I'm in because I can't drive a race car, and money is certainly not something at my disposal.

“I have worked my absolute bum out to get here, anyone who knows me understands the sacrifices we have made and when I have my best chance look out.

“To all the supporters out there, thank you so much for your on going support and kind words, it's amazing to see how many people have rallied behind us this year even though it has been such a tough year on and off the track.

“We have six months to look at what we can do, I have some amazing people in my corner (including my family) helping me make the right decisions. 

“We will not lye (sic) down, watch this space, I'm not giving up yet. Watch this space.”

Russell also paid tribute to his crew, which includes female number one and two mechanics Frances Buckley and Bonnie Beard, and team-mate David Reynolds.

“The mechanics are an amazing bunch of dedicated and skilled people, I can't thank them enough for their efforts.

“David Reynolds thanks for being an awesome team mate, you taught me lots, I've made an awesome mate, and I really hope good things come to you dude because you deserve it!”

Russell, who shifted to Melbourne as part of the deal to race with Erebus, has confirmed he and girlfriend Dom are moving home to Newcastle to “regroup”.

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