Colourful team owner Betty Klimenko couldn’t be happier with the strong performance from Erebus Motorsport V8 at the Wilson Security Sandown 500.
With the IRWIN Tools Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG steered by Lee Holdsworth and Craig Baird coming home fourth – the team’s best ever finishing result since beginning in V8 Supercars this year – Klimenko said the result was a win for the team.
“I am very happy, I’m very proud,” Klimenko told v8supercars.com.au after the race.
“This is what Erebus does well – we come from the bottom and work our way up. Adversity is our friend!
“We’ve had a lot of naysayers all weekend – here, overseas, everywhere – and one thing these boys do well is prove people wrong. So I don’t think there’s anything I can say. To me that wasn’t a fourth, it was a first.”
Klimenko’s overseas reference was in relation to comments made by AMG Chief Executive Tobias Moers, who said AMG wasn’t happy with the team’s performance. A team competing in a category should win races, and Erebus has not been doing that. What was her immediate response, when reading the comments?
“I don’t have a response because my team, my cars, you know, we don’t need to prove or disprove what anyone says about us, to us, or for us. We do what we do and that’s it. It’s the same with the GT program, we proved ourselves, we proved how good we could be under stress and this is exactly what these boys (have done). You give us something to fight for and we will.”
But, given the strong showing from the #4 car – and of the #47, until issues in pit lane which involved pit crew members shared with another one car outfit – things could be turning around for the Mercedes team.
Holdsworth particularly has had the most difficult season of his career, recording five consecutive DNFs (did not finish) earlier in the season. Up until yesterday, his best finishing result was 13th, back in Tasmania during Race Five.
But Klimenko feels she helped keep the star V8 Supercars driver positive, and was devastated to see what he had been going through.
“All year, I’ve been telling him don’t worry, your karma points are building up for the enduros – and I was right. And I’m really happy I was right.
“I burst into tears,” she said of seeing Holdsworth’s struggle.
“It was hard on me, basically it broke my heart having to see them work round after round getting one knock after another knock, after another knock. When something like (the fourth place) happens, it evens out.”
While Klimenko still has luke-warm feelings about the new mandatory pit stop ruling for the races in the PIRTEK Enduro Cup, intended to improve parity across the field, she conceded it was only the team’s first year. Competing with teams with long history and development in the sport was far from ideal.
“Unless you have a Safety Car race, it’s not equal. It’s not fair.
“I know that V8 Supercars are trying hard to make it equal, and I really appreciate it. But they have to see it through everyone’s eyes, what will make it fair and equal between all teams. Because you had a set of cars that have been here a very long time, running off the same set of engines and then you have three or four with two other engines, the Nissan engine and out engine, which are not the same.
“We’ll get there, it’s only the first year.”
Drama unfolded early in the weekend with the team announcing the departure of Tim Slade, who had been the stand-out performer of the three Erebus pilots this season and achieved the team’s previous highest finishing place of sixth.
Klimenko believes the sudden public announcement of the news – released just an hour before the first practice session of the Wilson Security Sandown 500 – didn’t affect the crew. She felt it wasn’t a negative reflection on the team, but something Slade needed to do for himself.
“Tim’s a young man – they all get the itch and they all want to try something new, and that’s his position. And the boys know that.
“No disrespect to any drivers, but it’s harder to find a good technician or engineer.
“The drivers are drivers. They’re all individual, perfection machines and there are just so many drivers. You need to match to car to the driver. If the driver’s not happy, you’ve got to let them go. And the boys know that. There’s no animosity anywhere. We’re all good friends.”
Now, it’s on to Bathurst. And while Klimenko is looking forward to the Great Race…
“I must admit, because I’m in five categories – I won at Bathurst this year already (Erebus Motorsport V8 won the 12-Hour race). Not that I don’t want to win again, I’d love to win again. That would be an amazing thing, to win twice in one year...
“I’m looking forward to Bathurst, because I can actually say I’m Queen of the Mountain. It’s one title no one on this grid can take away from me. So I think I might wear a tiara.