A short stint out of the industry was all it took to convince a young Matt Stone that motorsport was for him.
The man now behind third-year Supercars squad Matt Stone Racing hails from a family synonymous with the sport.
His father Jim and uncle Ross (both pictured below) were inducted into the Supercars Hall of Fame in 2016, having run the Stone Brothers Racing outfit that won three consecutive championships from 2003-05.
After graduating high school in ‘03, Matt got his taste of the Supercars world in the SBR ranks as an unofficial apprentice engine builder.
Two years down the track, he departed the family business… but an escape from motorsport didn’t last long.
“I left SBR and started a formal apprenticeship outside of motorsport, which I got bored of pretty quickly,” Stone explained to Supercars.com.
“So I started working race weekends on Carrera Cup while I was doing my apprenticeship.”
When SBR added a third car midway through 2007 under the Team Kiwi banner to blood teen Shane van Gisbergen, Stone took the opportunity to get back in the game.
He had progressed to the number one mechanic role on van Gisbergen’s car by the time he re-exited SBR at the end of 2010 and soon would launch his own team.
“With the help of my parents, we embarked on creating Matt Stone Racing in early 2011 as a small single-car outfit running in the Super2 Series,” Stone said.
They fielded young Irishman Robert Cregan, netting top 10 results in three of their first four races before sliding down the pecking order to end the year 12th overall.
Humble beginnings – but it was the start of an outfit that would rapidly grow with each and every year.
“The passion for motorsport that me and everyone in this team has, has meant that every year we’ve done more and more, bigger and bigger, always aiming the trajectory towards being back in the main game,” Stone said.
It’s that background in support categories though that the 33-year-old feels sets MSR apart.
“We weren’t a big outfit that came into Supercars in a time when they were enormous in the Australian market with the Holden versus Ford rivalry,” he said.
“We came in after the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) in a much different marketplace; our business and our team really focused on the smaller categories within Australia.
“We’ve really created a market and a name for ourselves specialising in all of the categories but focusing as well on Supercars, so I guess our biggest difference is our diversity.”
After winning the Super2 crown (above) in 2017, they stepped up with incumbent driver Todd Hazelwood to bring the Stone name back to Supercars.
From 2017 second-tier champions, ’18 delivered a reality check as they placed 26th of 26 at the top level and switched mid-season from an ex-DJR Team Penske Falcon to a Triple Eight-built VF Commodore.
“[That year] was us dipping our toe in the water, making all of the mistakes under the sun,” he reflected.
“You don’t know what you don’t know until you have a go, and we got into Supercars, tripped over a fair bit and went back to our basics mid-to-late season.”
Better things came the next season, now with a T8-built ZB Commodore and a technical alliance in place; Hazelwood running near the front at times en route to a far improved 18th in the end-of-year standings.
Then came the recent summer of dramatic change.
Hazelwood departed the squad after six years, joining Brad Jones Racing; Garry Jacobson replaced him, and the team proudly made the leap to two cars in order to trailblaze a rookie driver share program for Zane Goddard and Jake Kostecki.
Stone has prided his team on being a platform for young talent to shine and the SuperLites initiative is proof he’s willing to put his money where his mouth is.
Through their growth, Jim has been an influential behind the scenes figure, even building offices at MSR’s Yatala headquarters to cater for their expansion.
“He’s my old man and obviously one of my very best friends… if you watched him on a day, you wouldn’t believe he’s retired,” Matt said.
“Jimmy comes there every day, he works on his [restoration] projects as well as helping us out with some of ours. He’s not the type to retire and go sit on a beach and watch the days tick by. He wants to be in the action.”
Matt is considered a cross between the mechanically minded Jim and business savvy Ross – because he had to be, as essentially a one-man band in the early days of MSR.
As the team has grown, the presence of Jason Gomersall has come in handy, the businessman and gentleman racer becoming an equity partner 12 months ago.
“From my engineering and mechanical background, there was only so far that my business knowledge would get the business,” Stone noted.
“Jason coming onboard has allowed us to really grow to that next step, because he’s very much a wealth of knowledge and experience and success in business; it has meant we can really evolve to what we are now.”
So, where to from here for MSR?
“Everything we do, we want to do well and we want to win but we understand that it doesn’t matter who you are, you can’t come in overnight and win,” Stone said.
“You have got to build up to it and our Supercar program is really building now, we’ve got the two-car team. We just want to build that up over the next few years and really cement ourselves as a top running Supercars team.
“Obviously like our history, we’re open to all forms of racing, be that national and international, and I have no doubt other opportunities will pop up much like what Triple Eight do in Asia now.
“Anything that we can do well, we’ll do. But Supercars is by far the core foundation and getting up to the pointy of that field is our main target.”