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V8 Supercars will feature three Mercedes on the grid next year as regulation changes entice new manufacturers to Australia's premier motor racing series.
Regulation changes for 2013 have already encouraged Nissan to return to the category which grew from the Australian Touring Car Championship after the series was opened up to new manufacturers. Similar to NASCAR, the 'Car of the Future' regulations provide teams and manufacturers with a standard base on to which parity matched body panels in the shape of a Ford Falcon, Holden Commodore, Nissan Altima or Mercedes E63 will be fitted. Under the bonnet the traditional 5-litre V8 engine, the cornerstone of the series, remains.
Moving away from their long-time relationship with Ford, Stone Brothers Racing has partnered with Erebus Racing for 2013, capitalising on the latter's strong relationship with Mercedes. Erebus has competed in endurance racing for a number of seasons with Mercedes, currently featuring a pair of Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 cars. The deal was helped by the fact that Stone Brothers ongoing funding from Ford is currently uncertain as the manufacturer looks to trim its racing budget. Erebus meanwhile is believed to bring as much as $1million AUD per car to the squad for next year.
Mercedes had been reluctant to enter the series, which has historically been a tribal battle between Ford and Holden, as the category failed to fit in to the German company's criteria for racing series. As with Formula One and German Touring cars, V8 Supercars attracts a different supporter demographic which some have suggested could cheapen and damage Mercedes luxury brand.
As such Mercedes was quick to distance itself from the announcement, officially having no part in the deal which was brokered between long term customers Erebus and Mercedes performance arm AMG. The outfit will be forced to purchase the AMG V8 engine it will use, while homologation of the body panels is yet to begin. It's also understood as part of the deal Mercedes has maintained veto rights over sponsorship to ensure the protection of its brand position.
Coupled with the return of Nissan, Mercedes entry doubles the number of manufacturers present, potentially reduces costs for the current manufacturers while broadening the appeal of the series beyond the Ford versus Holden rivalry.
Testing and development of the new Mercedes bodywork and engine will begin over the coming months ahead of the 2013 season, which will likely kick off in Adelaide in March around a shortened version of the Grand Prix circuit. It also boasts events in New Zealand, Abu Dhabi and the Circuit of the Americas in Austin.
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