For safety’s sake

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 08/04/2016
  • By Bruce Newton

The E-Cell safety seat debuted in V8 Supercars in 2013 by Erebus Motorsport in its now parked Mercedes-AMG E63s will soon be fitted to David Reynolds’ Penrite Holden Commodore VF.

The Betty Klimenko-owned team has prioritised the fitment of the seat to its ex-Walkinshaw Racing Commodore because it is a safety issue, general manager Barry Ryan told v8supercars.com.

He also revealed the team intended to build a brand new car for Reynolds later this year as it re-establishes its engineering capabilities following its massive off-season overhaul and interstate shift.

“The E-Cell is so much safer than what’s in the car now, it seems silly to say it's safer and not prioritise it,” Ryan said.

“We just have to find a decent break in the calendar where we can do it. Maybe after Phillip Island.

“We need a couple of days just to change the seat pocket and get it in there and then have a day or two getting Dave comfortable in the seat.”

The team also intends to upgrade Aaren Russell’s Fitness Plus Commodore with an E-Cell this season.

The carbon-fibre driver safety cell developed by AMG and racing partner HWA is also used in the DTM and GT3 categories. It does have its disadvantages in terms of exit and entry and some drivers have complained about discomfort, but Ryan was unconcerned.

“There have been a couple of crashes in the past where the drivers have walked away and they would have appreciated it.”

Ryan said the decision to build a brand new Commodore for Reynolds later in the year had not been finalised, but the team already has the control chassis componentry in stock.

“The car we have got, there is nothing wrong with it, but it’s far from new,” he explained.

“Once we have our development down pat and we are right to go then we will build the new car.

“The chassis is a low-spec component pretty much but it will just be nicer, straighter and everything fits better and it might be a couple of hundredths (of seconds) we are looking for later in the year.”

While Erebus bought a car from Walkinshaw Racing, the two organisations have no engineering alliance, apart from WR’s Mathew Nilsson engineering rookie Russell, who is racing his own WR-sourced Commodore using the second Erebus Racing Entitlements Contract (REC).

Ryan said the decision not to align with Walkinshaw reflected the Erebus plan to become a long-term stand-alone force in the championship.

“We wanted that,” he said. “We wanted to be Erebus, we didn’t want to be just a customer of another team. It’s not what our long term vision is.”

After Reynolds’ unexpected fifth place at the Clipsal 500, both the Australian Grand Prix and the second round of the championship in Tasmania haven’t delivered any similar results for the team.

But Ryan said progress was being made as the predominantly rookie crew continued learning and the engineering crew led by veteran Campbell Little learned the car.

“I am the most impatient one, Betty has a lot of patience,” Ryan laughed. “I want to get there tomorrow.

“But performance-wise we can’t be happy until we are at least consistently in the top 10 and pushing for top fives and podiums."

Ryan praised the application being shown by Reynolds, who joined the team from Prodrive this year after finishing third in the 2015 championship.

“Every time he gets in the car you know he’s giving everything. He is a big positive,” he said.

“He is just really honest. If the car is not good enough there is no beating around the bush. He will just say it; ‘We have to make it better here, it’s really good there’. And that style of thing is really good for developing the car.”

Meanwhile, having shifted from the Gold Coast to Melbourne over the summer, Erebus is planning to move again during the season.

But this time it’s not such a long haul, with a new factory secured in Dandenong to replace its current cramped Moorabbin headquarters.

The new facility will mean Erebus joins Garry Rogers Motorsport and Team 18 in Dandenong, while Nissan Motorsport (Kelly Racing) is nearby at Braeside.

“We are close enough to GRM that we could have kick to kick at lunchtime,” joked Ryan. “It would have to be a big kick though.”

Both the Erebus V8 and GT3 operations will move to Dandenong.

“We have secured a building in Dandenong which is going to be a breath of fresh air compared to where we are in Moorabbin,” said Ryan.

“The hustle and bustle and trying to get trucks in and out of there is just a nightmare really. It’s a nice little shop but it’s just a GT shop when you don’t need manufacturing, work areas and so on.”

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