Four manufacturers set for V8 Supercars in 2013
Mark Skaife, Chairman of the V8 Supercars Commission, says it's highly unlikely that there'll be a fifth manufacturer enter the series for 2013, following the news Stone Brothers Racing will run AMG-prepared Mercedes-Benz entries in partnership with Erebus Racing.
CLICK HERE for Stone Brothers Racing-Erebus Racing announcement.
Four manufacturers for 2013 has been the goal of Skaife and V8 Supercars supremo Tony Cochrane, in the first season of the new Car of the Future regulations designed to "open the shopfront" to new makes.
"If you had to have a percentage on it at the moment, I would say we that we are pretty much locked and loaded with what we've got," Skaife told V8X on the makeup of the 2013 grid.
"There are further discussions taking place. But given the timeline, it's almost a year of negotiations and talk required and this (Stone Brothers Racing-Erebus AMG deal) started in October to November last year, so it does take time to get to this point."
Skaife insisted there were "two or three more" manufacturers who are looking into the possibility of entering V8 Supercars for 2014 and beyond, adding that the non-factory Erebus Motorsport example (running Mercedes parts through a customer program) could help convince manufacturers unwilling to bankroll a factory team.
Mazda has shown an interest by sending a fact-finding team to the V8 Supercars event at Phillip Island in May, while Chrysler, who was set to enter with Garry Rogers Motorsport for 2013 before a change of heart, is also considered a possibility down the track.
"We've had visitations from other car companies and planning for more talks," said Skaife. "After this announcement there will be a wind up of interest from others, so we are continuing talks with manufacturers and teams."
Stone Brothers Racing's defection from Ford has long been rumoured with the championship-winning team set to lose funding from the Blue Oval, ending a 15-year association between the team and manufacturer.
With Tony D'Alberto Racing set to defect back to Holden with technical support from Walkinshaw Racing and Stone Brothers Racing running Mercedes-Benz cars, Ford could be left with just two teams (Ford Performance Racing and Dick Johnson Racing) and seven entries for the 2013 season, at a time when the future of the Falcon and its local manufacturing appears grim.
If there are no further Racing Entitlement Contracts (RECs) movements, Holden will have 14 entries to Ford's seven – double the presence of its traditional rival. Nissan will have four and there will be three Mercedes-Benz entries.
"We can't put our head in the sand and say that there aren't automotive manufacturing issues in this country," Skaife said when asked about Ford's future in the series.
"That is not lost on us. However, we continue to work very closely with the car companies involved in the sport. We are a key marketing pillar that is used with them.
"And we would love to see Ford via the Falcon or another acceptable model to be involved in the sport for the long-term. So we will continue to discuss how to do that."
Nissan Australia released a statement today declaring it welcomes the presence of Mercedes-Benz entries in V8 Supercars from 2013.
"Nissan welcomes the news that there will be Mercedes Benz V8 Supercars on the grid next season racing alongside our Nissan Altima, fielded by our factory Nissan Motorsport team, as well as entries from existing participants Ford and Holden," said Nissan Australia Managing Director and CEO William F Peffer Jr.
"A fourth manufacturer can only add further excitement to the sport. Next year is set to be an enormous year for Nissan Motorsport and the sport as a whole and everyone in the world of Nissan is excited about next season's V8 Supercars Championship."
Current breakdown of manufacturers in V8 Supercars for 2013:
Holden: Walkinshaw Racing (three cars), Brad Jones Racing (three cars) Triple Eight (two cars), Garry Rogers Motorsport (two cars), Tekno Autosports (two cars), Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport (one car), Tony D'Alberto Racing (one car). Total: 14 entries.
Ford: Ford Performance Racing (four cars), Dick Johnson Racing (three cars). Total: Seven entries.
Nissan: Nissan Motorsport-Kelly Racing (four cars). Total: Four entries.
Mercedes-Benz: Stone Brothers Racing-Erebus Racing (three cars). Total: Three entries.