Erebus reckons David Reynolds is the dark horse in the Supercars field, but living up to that tag will require being a genuine contender for wins. Are driver and team really up for it?
Erebus tagging Reynolds as a dark horse rather than an underdog heading into the new season is no accident, nor is it simply a play on the car's predominately black colour scheme.
The team's thinking is that an underdog, by the strictest definition, is expected to lose. For an underdog to win, there needs to be an element of good fortune. Something has to go an underdog's way.
A dark horse, however, quietly gets the job done. It might not look like a winner on paper, it might face some stiff competition from more fancied rivals, but it's a genuine contender nonetheless.
There's no scope for good fortune for a dark horse. And that's exactly where Erebus Motorsport sees itself right now. It's all about a simple approach and a lot of hard work.
It's a realistic self-appraisal, too. The team's crowning glory, that stunning Bathurst 1000 win last October, wasn't lucky. It was deserved. Using that as a template, why not dream of winning even more regularly this year?
"One hundred per cent," says Reynolds when asked if he can be a consistent contender in 2018.
"The car we started out with last year was completely different in every way, shape, and form to what we had at the end of the year. And the end of the year was a lot better than the start of the year.
"We're starting to understand what we need now. Obviously the aero package has changed, so we'll have to balance it up here and there, but that's just all engineering stuff.
"I think our base package is good enough to fight at the top."
There's one key difference between the last time Reynolds found himself in a position to win races, and this time. Back when he was at Tickford (née Prodrive), he was part of a big team, with normal big team politics and at least two other genuine star drivers.
For a unique character like Reynolds it was never going to work.
Since joining Erebus for the 2016 season, Reynolds has made it his team. He grabbed the switch from the ill-fated Mercedes hardware to Commodores with both hands, he heartily embraced the move to Melbourne and the scaling back of the Erebus operation, and he's back to his absolute best form behind the wheel.
It's his team, and while he tries to shy away from it, few other drivers could have filled the odd-shaped hole in the Erebus puzzle in the same way that Reynolds has over the last 24 months.
"I suppose I'm a reasonably big part of the team. I can't say if there was another driver involved it would be the same..." he says.
"But I enjoy the way we go about everything. Even just rolling into the workshop, hanging out and chatting with everyone. The crew is awesome, [owner] Betty [Klimenko] is awesome to work with – she's crazy like I am. It makes it all so easy.
"And I like this team because there are less people involved, so there's less s**t you have to deal with day in, day out.
"We just like fixing cars and making them go faster. That's our number one priority – to make our cars as fast as they can go."
One new dimension that Reynolds will need to deal with this season is the potential of a competitive teammate. While he had free run of the place for the first two years, and wasn't once out-qualified by the car on the other side of the garage, rookie signing Anton De Pasquale looks like the real deal.
But rather than stress about his perfect head-to-head record being broken, Reynolds says he's hoping that De Pasquale can help push the team forward – even if it means being out-qualified every now and then.
"That's fine. I don't care if he beats me or I beat him," he says.
"He's fast. He's young, enthusiastic, and he's very smooth with his inputs in the car – I can probably learn something from that.
"That's what we want to happen. Any chance I can learn from him, I'll take it.
"I'll adapt what I know to go faster, that's what it's about at the end of the day."
Supercars is an incredibly competitive series, and the likes of Triple Eight, DJR Team Penske, and Tickford don't give away wins for free. For that very reason, considering Reynolds to be a title contender feels like a massive long shot.
But that doesn't mean he's not a dark horse. If he's is right about the team having a solid grip on its baseline set-up, and if his quiet confidence in the ZB aero is on the money, then winning races on merit won't be beyond Reynolds and Erebus this year.
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|Author||Andrew van Leeuwen|