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Mercedes V8 Supercars primed to race in 2013

Race bred: A Mercedes-Benz could end up on the grid alongside Holden, Ford and Nissan in the V8 Supercar Championship next year.

Announcement imminent on three-car Mercedes-Benz V8 Supercar debut assault

Mercedes-Benz logo14 Sep 2012

UP TO three Mercedes-Benz-badged V8 Supercars are expected to line up on the grid in Australia’s premier racing category in 2013.

GoAuto understands an announcement will be made as early as next week on the assault, which is expected to be masterminded by existing V8 Supercar team Stone Brothers Racing from its Queensland base, in league with independent Mercedes GT racing team Erebus Racing.

It is unclear how much support for the effort will be forthcoming from Mercedes-Benz Australia (MBA), which has previously publicly stated that it would not be involved in a V8 Supercar campaign.

However, MBA senior manager corporate communications David McCarthy gave a simple “no comment” when contacted by GoAuto today.

The V8 Supercar rumour mill suggests an announcement will be made within days, after this weekend’s Sandown 500 in Melbourne and before the Supercheap 1000 in Bathurst next month.

A Mercedes presence on the grid at the first round of the 2013 season at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide early next year would take the number of car brands contesting the category to four, alongside entrants wearing Holden, Ford and Nissan badges.

Stone Brothers – headed by expatriate New Zealanders Ross and Jimmy Stone – have run Ford Falcons in the V8 championship since its inception in 1998, winning three titles with Marcos Ambrose (in 2003-4) and Russell Ingall in 2005.

Its existing three drivers – Lee Holdsworth, Shane Van Gisbergen and Tim Slade – are all expected to take the wheel of a Mercedes-badged race car next year.

V8 Supercars Australia is moving to its new Car of the Future formula in 2013, opening the door for teams to consider cars other than Holden’s Commodore and the Falcon, which have provided the backbone of the two-make category since it replaced Group A touring cars in the 1990s.

Nissan has already jumped aboard for 2013 in a deal with current Holden team Kelly Racing which is well advanced on construction of its prototype Nissan Altima racer and 5.0-litre V8 engine.

The most likely contender for a Mercedes V8 Supercar is the E63 AMG – Mercedes-Benz’s top-selling high-performance model in Australia.

Australians buy more AMG-enhanced Benzs per capita than any other country, providing a solid platform for a racing program.

However, the debate within Mercedes-Benz Australia and its head office in Stuttgart over V8 Supercar participation has been prolonged, with local executives expressing the view that the V8 Supercars championship is not the ideal platform to promote the sophisticated German luxury cars.

Mercedes-Benz has long been involved in the premier German tin-top category, DTM, but those cars have had a much higher level of mechanical sophistication than the traditional Aussie V8 Supercar.

The switch to the Car of the Future formula developed by a V8 Supercars Australia team headed by former racing champion Mark Skaife means marques such as Mercedes-Benz and Nissan get to use their own, more advanced V8 engines, but with engine mapping controls to make sure they don’t blow the Commodores and Falcons off the track.

According to motor racing news website Speedcafe, Stone Brothers is preparing to test its Car of the Future prototype next week, but because the Mercedes-Benz deal has been up in the air, the car is expected to be clad in Falcon panels.

Erebus Racing, which like the Stone brothers also has New Zealand origins, already has strong links with AMG Customer Sports service in Germany, buying race parts for its Australian GT Championship Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 racers.

Erebus’s Peter Hackett is leading the 2012 championship by six points. Peter Brock’s stepson James Brock was driving for the team until recently, but will be replaced by European drivers for the final three rounds.

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