Super Stewart slides into Supercar

Teenage speedster Jobe Stewart shifted gears last week by completing a lifelong dream swapping his Toyota 86 for an Erebus Motorsport Holden ZB Commodore.

The Mount Gambier driver has spent the last two years cutting his teeth in the Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia 86 Series and enjoyed a career-best start to the 2022 season in Sydney last month.

But Stewart’s heart was pumping at new levels last Tuesday when he jumped into a Supercar for the first time at Winton and completed a three-session test.

Having spent years watching his heroes drive these machines on television and only driving a Toyota previously, Stewart said he felt a bit edgy before those feelings blew away as he put the foot down and unleashed the screaming V8 engine.

“I was obviously pretty nervous because the only thing I had driven before was the Toyota 86 which is a fair bit slower,” he said.

“It was overall just heaps of fun and super-fast.

“Putting the foot down was just breathtaking.”

It was an unexpected surprise for the teenager, who is also trying to complete his year 12 studies when he is not behind the wheel.

Stewart left Mount Gambier with a spring in his step anticipating a fun weekend soaking up the high-octane action of the first Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix in three years with 420,000 others.

But a surprise email extended his stay for all the right reasons.

“It was a last-minute thing,” Stewart said.

“I went up to Melbourne for a few days to watch the Grand Prix and then I got an email from the Erebus guys if I wanted to come to the track on Tuesday, which was pretty good timing.”

Despite Erebus having just completed a gruelling four-race schedule at Albert Park, the team was not mucking around.

Erebus CEO Barry Ryan kept a close eye on things as the five-person crew perfectly prepared the Holden ZB Commodore, which is one of the most versatile chassis in Australian motorsport.

Dubbed the “Mercodore” the chassis started life as a Ford FG Falcon at Stone Brothers Racing, but never raced before it was converted to a Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG following its sale to Erebus before the 2013 season.

The car was raced by Lee Holdsworth for two years with the highlight a shock win at Winton in 2014.

After Erebus ditched the three-pointed star in favour of General Motors, the chassis received another makeover becoming a Holden ZB Commodore with a Mercedes engine.

Eight years after Holdsworth’s stunning upset, Stewart brought the car back to the tricky and historic circuit in country Victoria during a special test.

To assist Stewart and the other six young drivers with the step up to the world-renowned touring car was current Supercars star Jack Perkins.

Perkins’ father Larry is one of the most famous figures in Australian motorsport, but Jack has left his own mark winning on the Gold Coast in 2016 and stepping on the Bathurst 1000 podium in 2019.

Receiving advice from a man with 148 race starts was perfect for Stewart, who was stepping in uncharted territory.

The Blue Lake driver had only ever driven go-karts and a Toyota 86, which is around 20 seconds per lap slower than a Supercar at Winton.

Stewart admitted the jump of speed was the biggest thing that hit him.

But he said it became natural as he came to grips with the beast during the opportunity of a lifetime.

“Straight away the car felt faster and the acceleration was unbelievable,” he said.

“There was a lot more grip and it stopped a lot quicker because the brakes are much bigger.

“Slamming through the gears of the sequential gearbox was a lot of fun.

“Because the Toyota has low power, you have wait for it a bit, but the Supercar takes anything you can throw at it.

“After a few laps it felt like any other race car and I found some confidence to develop through the whole day.”

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