Supercars history born in city

Supercars history born in city

To the passer-by it just appears to be another ordinary shed, but open the door and you will discover a slice of Australian motor racing history.

Sitting inside the garage is the rarely seen maiden Erebus Motorsport Gen3 chassis, which will become a mean-looking Chevrolet Camaro ahead of the 2023 Repco Supercars Championship.

Then, just one step away, lies the chassis which David Reynolds and Luke Youlden drove to a famous victory at the 2017 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 in the pouring rain.

The uninitiated may believe they are just bits of metal, but to motorsport fans they are works of art signifying the birth of much-loved race cars.

The man behind it all is Mount Gambier fabricator James White, who has been building chassis for the best part of two decades.

His relationship with Erebus Motorsport CEO Barry Ryan started in the early 2000’s when the pair worked at Perkins Engineering with the legendary Larry Perkins.

Now, White is based in the Blue Lake city and has built the Erebus Supercars here since the team switched from Mercedes E63 AMG’s to Holden Commodores in 2016.

His work makes Mount Gambier one of just four locations in Australia and the world building the Gen3 Supercars alongside Walkinshaw in Melbourne, Triple Eight Race Engineering and PACE Innovations in Queensland.

The future is bright for the sport, with new Gen3 Chevrolet Camaros and Ford Mustangs coming next year that not only look tough, but also bring reduced costs and improved racing and safety to the Australian category, which is rated as one of the best touring car series in the world.

The new formula was announced all the way back in October 2020, and was originally scheduled to be rolled out at the start of this year.

However, due to numerous factors Gen3’s introduction was pushed back to next season as teams have struggled to get their hands on the materials required to build the new cars.

Therefore, Mount Gambier was the centre of attention last week as Erebus Motorsport reached a major milestone in the build of its first Gen3 chassis with the rear clip and centre section now completed.

With Supercars still testing a revised front end of the Camaro, White said he had effectively done as much as he could after starting from scratch just a couple of weeks ago, having been held back by the repeated delays.

“It has been around 350 hours so far and it will take another 30 hours to get it done,” he said.

“We rushed to make everything 12 to 18 months ago, but only got the parts two weeks ago.

“It has been worth the wait because the car itself evolved to be better and more refined.

“For the previous generation of car, we organised and made everything in house, but the Gen3 kit has been supplied by PACE Innovations which has taken 500 hours out of the build in the bigger picture.”

In addition to being less of a timely process, White said he has also found the Gen3 chassis easier to construct than the previous Gen2 chassis which was slightly bigger for a four-door Holden ZB Commodore rather than a two-door Camaro.

“I have found it much easier than the current car because that had so much panel work to enclose everything,” he said.

“Because it is such as open area, it is a lot easier to get your hands in.”

For White this is important because building a chassis from scratch is far from a simple process.

“I would say yes (it is physically demanding) because there is a lot of contortionist work,” he said.

“That is the best description about the difficulty because you are climbing into small spaces and reaching around into bars.

“But it is no different to anyone else because every job has its challenges.”

Despite knowing he is the first person to lay his hands on a race car that will be one day be driven on famous tracks like Bathurst, Adelaide and The Bend, White said he has learnt it is best not to get too attached to the chassis.

“You take a lot of pride and ownership when you are making them and the same with the mechanics when they are assembling them, but when they hit the race track you do not feel it so much,” he said.

“Otherwise you just get really depressed every time you watch something come back with a scratch so you have to emotionally let go.”

A prime example of this is represented by the older Supercars chassis sitting in White’s workshop.

The most famous Erebus car is the 2017 Bathurst winner, but that only raced for another two years after it was written off when Anton De Pasquale suffered a scary high-speed shunt at Reid Park in the 2019 Great Race.

The car has now been stripped back to the bare chassis which was damaged in the crash and it is White’s job to repair and restore it back to its former glory.

Bathurst winners are the most treasured cars in Australia and there are only 57 around, so to have one sitting harmlessly in the heart of Mount Gambier puts the town on the map and who knows what the latest being built in White’s workshop could achieve.

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