Mercedes to break ground on Supercars grid

The new Mercedes supercar.
The new Mercedes supercar.

They said it would never happen, but Mercedes-Benz will be on the V8 Supercars grid this year alongside fellow newcomer Nissan, and traditional rivals Ford and Holden.

After a record-breaking 109-day development program, the V8-racing version of the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG broke cover for the first time at a gala unveiling at Sydney Olympic Park on Thursday night.

Following a series of secret tests, ambitious new V8 team Erebus Motorsport revealed all three of the Mercedes it will race this year under the Car Of The Future rules.

The new regulations have opened V8 Supercars to a wider variety of makes after nearly two decades of a closed-shop approach that limited the field to Commodores and Falcons.

The Mercedes trio will make their public track debut at the V8 pre-season test day at Sydney Motorsport Park on Saturday.

They will race for the first time in the twin-race Adelaide 500 on March 2-3.

Erebus, which won last Sunday's Bathurst 12 Hour GT sports car endurance race for Mercedes-Benz, has brought the three-pointed star into V8 racing in a privately funded partnership with the company's AMG performance car and racing division.

Owned by wealthy Sydney-based enthusiast Betty Klimenko – the first female V8 Supercars team boss – Erebus took over longtime Ford team Stone Brothers Racing to form the basis of its V8 assault.

The team's E63 AMG-look racers, all powered by German-developed five-litre V8s adapted to the local rules, will be driven by SBR carryovers Lee Holdsworth and Tim Slade, and new German recruit Maro Engel.

Although it is not a factory-backed effort like Nissan's entry, Erebus is running Mercedes-look and -powered V8 Supercars with the approval of the company's German headquarters.

Klimenko overcame widespread doubt, the scepticism of a high-ranking AMG official and opposition from Mercedes-Benz Australia to put the German prestige car-maker on the V8 grid.

Erebus Motorsport chief executive Ryan Maddison admitted that his initial approach to get AMG involved in the V8 Supercar project a year ago wasn't promising.

“A senior representative from AMG told me 'This will never happen',” Maddison said. “Betty's belief changed their minds.”

As well as convincing the Germans it could and should be done, Klimenko persuaded the local division to reverse its decision to veto the project.

This story Mercedes to break ground on Supercars grid first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.