The German car maker has refused to give official backing to the entry of three Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG cars that will be run by Erebus Motorsport in the 2013 V8 Supercars series.
Mercedes’ performance division AMG will be paid by Erebus to develop the E-Class racers and the 5.0-litre V8 that will power them.
It could take the departure of Holden and Ford, however, for Mercedes to consider a full factory effort, which has expressed a reluctance to be involved in the series despite persistent rumours. Mercedes-Benz Australia had also initially rejected Erebus’s proposal to enter the sport before giving its “blessing”.
“The current [V8 Supercars] race series is not really our demographic,” a Mercedes AMG source told CarAdvice. “If we win, [fans will say] we won because we are rich Germans. If we lose, it will be a case of ‘We beat the Germans’. So it’s a bit of a no-win situation.
“But with the likes of Nissan and Erebus joining, there’s an opportunity for the race series to ultimately become a bit of an Asia-Pacific DTM.
“There’s lots of potential for the race series to become an international race series, which is something that can’t be done with Holden and Ford involved.
“In a year or two, Ford or Holden may not be involved. When Ford loses the rear-drive Falcon what are they going to do? Run a front-wheel-drive Taurus?”
The AMG source says while it’s understandable there are reservations from Mercedes-Benz about getting officially involved, both AMG and its racing division spin-off HWA are “enormously enthusiastic” about the V8 Supercars challenge.
The E-Class racers will have to comply with the new Car of the Future regulations that come into effect in 2013 and were deliberately created to reduce racing costs and to encourage more brands to enter the sport.
The Mercedes cars will share key components such as rear-wheel-drive chassis and 18-inch Dunlop tyres with other competing cars that will include Ford Falcons, Holden Commodores and Nissan Altimas, with each differentiating themselves with bulked-up body shells based on the showroom cars.
Nissan was first to break the Ford-Holden duopoly when it announced earlier this year it would join the 2013 V8 Supercars series.
“From a technical standpoint this is a new challenge for AMG and HWA,” our source said. “For starters, we’re creating a new engine – a 5.0-litre from the 6.3-litre V8.
“And yes the Car of the Future regulations mean there’s control tyres and a control chassis, but there are always lots of ways within rules to make yourself more competitive.
“The most important component of the car will obviously remain the driver, but there might be something that might give you an extra half a per cent of performance. And AMG and HWA will be challenged to find this for Erebus.”
The insider joked that the team may have to bolt a door to the front of the E-Class bodywork because the showroom sedan has a slippery drag co-efficient but the race car must comply with rules that require aerodynamic parity between the cars.
The team is exploring the use of Formula One-style paddleshift levers mounted behind the steering wheel for gearchanges but admits it’s uncertain whether the final rules will permit it as an alternative to the normal sequential levers down by the driver’s hand.
HWA is also developing a safety cell and cage it says could set the standard for structural safety in the sport while remaining within the rules.
Erebus Motorsport is financed by Betty Saunders-Klimenko, the colourful daughter of the late Westfield co-founder John Saunders. The team is looking to complete a full buy-out of the Stone Brothers Racing team with which it has formed an alliance with for the 2013 season.