Betty Klimenko’s sadness at the wholesale changes Erebus Motorsport has undergone over the summer has been erased by the performance of her recast crew and David Reynolds’ fifth place in the controversial and at times crazy Sunday race at the Clipsal 500.
Aided by engineer Campbell Little and team boss Barry Ryan’s correct strategy to use the 140 litre fuel drop despite the race only running 48 laps, the former Prodrive racing star managed to deliver a result way above his team owner’s expectations.
“I would have been happy in the top 15,” Klimenko told v8supercars.com. “I would have thought that would have been what was expected.
“Top 10? I would have been ecstatic. But top five is amazing. Absolutely amazing.
“I thought David was fantastic. Of course he gets out of the car, takes off his helmet and says ‘a few more laps and I might have come first’. And I said ‘well you didn’t have a few more laps, you came fifth and be proud of it’.”
Klimenko also praised the role of Ryan and Little, especially when the action became frantic during the wet Sunday race and potential crises were popping up.
“Everyone was just getting flustered and Barry just went ‘everyone settle down, everyone just relax. Let’s just do this sensibly'.
“Barry and Campbell together made the right calls. We thought it (dumping the 140 litres) was actually the wrong call, but it turned out to be the right call.”
Erebus arrived at the Clipsal 500 with two new drivers in Reynolds and rookie Aaren Russell, two ex-Walkinshaw Holden Commodore VFs in place of the now-retired Mercedes-AMG E63s, a virtually all-new and inexperienced crew and a new home base in Melbourne after shifting from the Gold Coast over summer.
“When I got to Adelaide I was sad,” admitted Klimenko, who entered V8 Supercars racing in 2013 after taking over Stone Brothers Racing and going through extended and at times stalled negotiations with Mercedes-Benz to develop and race the E63.
“I was disappointed in a few things, but I took that step in the garage and looked down and saw the Holden on my t-shirt and went ‘yep, new day, new story, new everything else’.
“And a new crew. Campbell is the only person left from Queensland. Every one is new and half of them have just gotten out of their apprenticeships.”
The new crew did have their teething issues, Klimenko revealed. An early practice pit stop at the Clipsal 500 went disastrously wrong and Reynolds’s Penrite Commodore was dumped back on the ground without front wheels.
“Everything was bent and there was no air getting in the car, which is why he didn’t do well the second qually,” she said.
“But they practiced the next whole night; jack off, jack down, up-down.
“The next day the guys at the top-end (of pitlane) were doing a 4.4 (second pit stop) and we were doing a 4.5 and seamless.
“We exit as a much more bonded team. The young kids have learned a hell of a lot. Especially from the more experienced guys.”
Klimenko expressed her relief that the financial pressure of running the Commodore compared to the Benz, which required a significant development budget for its bespoke M159-based 5.0-litre V8 engine.
“I have not been so chilled for a whole weekend,” she said.
“The pressure of the engine was off my shoulders, which was great. And like (husband) Daniel says, you go to the movie theatres and are watching the same movie, eating the same popcorn, but the guy next to me paid $20 per ticket and I paid $100 per ticket.
Klimenko also praised the back-up provided by Holden and its motorsport manager Simon McNamara, who she revealed she had tangled with when Erebus entered the category.
“Holden have been amazing. I had my little drama with Simon McNamara at the beginning of the first year, I cannot even remember what it was about.
“But now every day it’s ‘guys can we help you? Is there something you need to get your head around the Holden?’ They are very serious.”
Klimenko even found a silver lining in Russell’s failure to make the Sunday race after breaking the steering when he crashed on the warm-up lap in zero visibility.
“When he was out, as a mother I looked at Wayne (Russell) as a father and said – when all the debacle was happening with the rain and so on – ‘is there somewhere deep down inside you that is glad he is not out there?’ And he goes ‘yep’.
“And that’s how I felt, I was glad he wasn’t out there, that he could watch it on television, see how the other drivers behaved.
“To watch it on television gives you abetter idea of what’s happening than being in the car.
“It’s up to him to take this opportunity of being able to see how these drivers react because he is new to this. And we know this happens. This happens with every new boy that comes along. He thinks he is going to win the first race.”