Mercedes-Benz AMG has questioned the viability of its third-party V8 Supercars team following a dour and controversial season.
Erebus Motorsport, run by Westfield-founder heiress Betty Klimenko, a major customer of AMG, was approved the right to use a Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG body shell as the basis of her private V8 Supercars team in September 2012 by the German operations, despite vocal opposition from the local Mercedes-Benz management team. The team has since, however, been consistently beaten by Holden and Ford, and more recently, second-newcomer Nissan.
Currently, the three drivers of Mercedes-Benz AMG products, Tim Slade, Lee Holdsworth, and Mero Engel, are, within 28 cars on the grid, sitting at 21st, 26th and 28th place respectively.
Tobias Moers (below), head of overall vehicle development and board member of Mercedes-AMG, responded at length to the question of whether the Stuttgart-based performance division is happy with the way Mercedes-Benz AMG is represented on the V8 Supercars grid.
“That’s a complicated question,” he began.
“Honestly … no we’re not today, it’s not really good where we are today in that race series, that’s clear, there is no sense to talk about we’re happy with that. No we’re not happy.
“The thing is when Erebus started … the target was one of the first [top] 10 [results]. Get that and then the chequered flag is coming.”
He referred to the indication that Mercedes-Benz AMG would eventually see higher placings in V8 Supercars rounds, but that has not since eventuated.
Moers admits that “we had a problem at the beginning there, we underestimated everything in the series, that’s the truth.
“We changed [the engine] … the powertrain wise the car is now capable. We still have an issue with the fuel consumption. But that problem or that issue will have everybody that’s come new into the racing series.”
V8 Supercars management has since made mandatory a number of fuel-stop entrys within a race to allow the multi-valve engines, such as Nissan and Mercedes-Benz use, to be on an increasingly equal playing field than the remaining field’s overhead valve engines.
But, Moers said, the efficiency inequality is because the Mercedes-Benz engine is forced to run at a compression ratio suitable for the existing Holden and Ford engines.
“I think sooner or later they’ll have to change something with that,” he opines. “Because we have … the compression ratio, at 10:1 … that’s two-valve compression ratio, that’s one issue and they have to change something.
“It’s always complicated if you step into a racing series that is pretty good/settled, so they have to do some arrangement, because of Nissan and then they have some arrangement with the ethanol, and they won the last two races and we have a discussion ‘is it fair for the other ones?’”
In addition to the engine characteristics mandated by V8 Supercars management, Moers also cites a lack of tuning experience being a factor in hampering the Erebus team’s success.
“We have to discuss it with the team because Winton on that small circuit, 1.8 kilometres with 20 corners, the [Erebus] car’s setup wasn’t good so we had a lot of understeer … there is still something to do.
“There’s a need for discussions with that cars.”
The Erebus Motorsport team has a two-year contract with Mercedes-Benz AMG, which runs out late next year. Although with Ford likely to pull the pin on V8 Supercars involvement it makes the inclusion of Mercedes-Benz even more crucial, Moers is unequivocal about the requirements needed to renew the Erebus contract next year.
“They have to [win],” he begins. “The aim is to win. If you race a car in a race series you have to win, you have to believe that you sometimes can win.
“So we’ll have to discuss with the team another time. But there’s always a discussion going on, there must be a breakthrough sooner or later, that’s clear”.
Unless major changes are made at Erebus Motorsport and with its drivers’ ability to win races, it appears the Mercedes-Benz AMG venture into V8 Supercars will be extremely short-lived.