In the spotlight, a team by team guide to the new V8SC season continues today with perhaps one of the most well liked teams in the paddock, Erebus. I’m not sure I’ve come across one person who doesn’t wish Betty and Erebus well and major upheavals over the winter break mean Erebus can start 2016 with a clean slate.
Just looking at Erebus’s changes over winter, on the surface it’s more a case of what’s not new than what is. The arrival of David Reynolds and Aaren Russell signals a complete change in driver line up at the team formerly known as Stone Brothers Racing, whilst the switch to run ex Walkinshaw Commodores means the well liked Mercedes E63’s no longer have a place on the V8SC grid. I’ve seen plenty of debate over the winter about whether the switch to run old Commodore’s is the right move, and I think although it will be a shame to see a marque leave the grid, with little/no support from Mercedes, from a purely motor racing perspective ditching the E63’s is the right thing for Erebus to do. Whilst the Merc’s looked great, their lack of pace was there for everyone to see and instead of slating Mercedes for not supporting Erebus, we should recognise the incredible commitment Holden have displayed to V8SC.There’s plenty of negativity on the forums about the sheer number of Holden’s on the grid, and whilst it might not be ideal, V8SC would certainly be a much poorer place without them.
The signing of Reynolds is a fantastic coup for Erebus following Davison’s departure to Tekno. I feel Reynolds really proved his worth last year after a couple of difficult seasons at Prodrive and I hope that he begin to build a solid team around him at Erebus. I still find it boggling that PRA chose not to renew his contract during last season, and I can only image money playing a large part in Reynolds vacating the Bottle O’ Falcon. Ford’s withdrawal has undoubtedly left PRA with a financial void to fill and Reynolds was the unfortunate victim. Shame on you Ford. It serves them right that it will remain Prodrive that drove Frosty to the 2015 title, not Ford.
Nevertheless had Reynolds been left without a drive for 2016 it would have been a travesty. 2015 showed us what the paddock comedian is really made of and 2016 will give him the chance to show just how good he is outside of the fastest machinery. I’m not expecting podiums and race wins for Reynolds in 2016, however if Erebus’ predictions are correct, and they arrive at Clipsal on the same pace as HRT then regular top ten finishes could well be on the cards for the Penrite Commodore this season.
Erebus are thought to have received Tim Slade’s chassis from last season, alongside Garth Tander’s 2013/2014 chassis, and although those chassis have by no means been the fastest, I still they’ll mark an improvement on the E63’s. No-ones expecting Erebus to be frontrunners, but the way they go about their motor racing is fantastic to see and I hope they are able to extract more pace out of the old Holdens, especially with Reynolds behind the wheel.
Aaren Russell steps up to the main game in 2016 after six seasons in the Dunlop V8SC series. The Plus Fitness Commodore driver had his first taste of V8SC machinery as a wildcard entry at the 2015 Bathurst 1000 finishing in a commendable 17th place alongside Drew Russell after starting 24th on the grid. I’m going to be honest, I don’t know much about Erebus’s new rookie however it will be interesting to see how he compares alongside his much more experienced teammate Reynolds. Whilst it was a shame to see Ash Walsh leave the team, making comparisons between him andRussell would be unfair. After all, Erebus are essentially starting from scratch again in 2016. Yes, they do have three years of V8SC experience which will stand them in good stead, but new drivers and a completely new car and manufacturer mean Betty’s squad face a steep learning curve in 2016.
As with many teams up and down the pit lane, huge changes over the winter mean it’s difficult to predict the pecking order we’ll see at Clipsal. Although they face an extremely difficult task I for one, will be joining the many V8SC fans who will be wishing Erebus well. Betty has made sure they go about their motorsport in the right way, and it’s only a matter of time before their approach starts to pay dividends. In Reynolds they have a driver capable of producing results on the biggest stage and with luck on their side, Erebus may just clinch a couple of those in 2016.