Subscribe

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Motorsport prime

Discover premium content
Subscribe

Edition

Global
Analysis

How a lifetime Supercars deal broke down in one year

David Reynolds inked what was effectively a lifetime deal with Erebus in 2019 – only to walk out a year later. What went wrong?

David Reynolds, Erebus Motorsport Holden

Photo by: Dirk Klynsmith / Motorsport Images

That David Reynolds' decade-long deal with Erebus didn't run it's full course isn't entirely surprising... but few would have tipped it would only last one of the 10 years.

The deal was full of bravado from the start. It satisfied both Reynolds' dislike of the negotiating process and Erebus owner Betty Klimenko's love of the extraordinary. At some point it was bound to cause headaches and it was likely to be form related. Neither teams nor drivers tend to truck along for a decade without a dip here and there.

But year one? Even those most cynical about "Decade Dave's" commitment wouldn't have seen that coming.

For the longest time the Reynolds/Erebus marriage was as blissful as they come. Klimenko gave Reynolds a chance right when his career was hanging by a thread, as he fell out of favour at Tickford Racing and missed the deadline to jump ship to Brad Jones Racing.

At the time Erebus was bloated, misguided and saddled with its inconsistent Mercedes hardware. It felt like Reynolds was in for a rough ride, only for his arrival to coincide with a ground-up rebuild led by Barry Ryan. The fat was trimmed as the team moved to a more humble shop in Melbourne and ditched the Mercs for the tried-and-tested Holden package.

It was a back to basics approach and, helped by having an A-grade driver on the books, it worked. Within two years Erebus was a Bathurst 1000-winning team and Reynolds a regular front-runner.

The chemistry wasn't just on the track either. Klimenko tolerated - perhaps even celebrated - Reynolds' eccentricities and vice versa. It was a recipe for harmony.

And then 2020 happened.

David Reynolds

David Reynolds

The break down of the Reynolds/Erebus relationship can't be entirely attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were rumblings of friction between the team and Reynolds in Adelaide, pre-coronavirus. There were even rumours that Reynolds' partner Tahan was no longer welcome in the garage. But the trying circumstances of the global health crisis certainly accelerated the process.

The first public hint of discontent came not long after Supercars hit the pause button on its 2020 season. Reynolds, a man who had never owned a simulator in his life, took a typically light-hearted approach to the Eseries that temporarily replaced real-life racing. He dressed up as Nintendo character Mario for the first round and drew the ire of a few of the more sim-competent drivers for not taking it seriously enough. He was subsequently benched by Erebus for the following round.

Had the squad burst out of the blocks when the real-life racing resumed in June all may have been forgiven. But a season-long run of poor form, particularly by the lofty standards a driver like Reynolds is held to, led to increasing tension.

Turning that form around was complicated by the absence of Reynolds' race engineer Alistair McVean. When the team was forced to flee Victoria on a few hours' notice in July, with no firm return date, McVean wasn't able to make the dash. With that Reynolds lost an important ally in the team, the person who understands him best as a driver and a person.

That something sinister was bubbling beneath the surface at Erebus began to become obvious around the Darwin double-header in August. Crew chief Dennis Huijser left the travelling crew and returned home for reasons that, as of yet, have never been explained. Ryan, meanwhile, spoke out about Reynolds' dip in form, saying his driver was "not really in the mental space he's normally at".

Reynolds countered that his lack of confidence was being driven by a lack of engineering direction: "I suppose my natural confidence is a bit low and I'm a confidence driver. I might be second guessing in my head a little bit and that's obviously not making lap speed at the track. But in saying that, if the car is still fast, regardless of who is on my radio, I can still drive it quick."

McVean returned for the season-ending Bathurst 1000, but, by all reports, the relationship between Reynolds and Ryan was beyond saving. That was partly evident in Ryan's post-race comments as he heaped praise on enduro co-driver Brodie Kostecki, who was being lined up as Reynolds' replacement. "[Kostecki] was the standout as far as I'm concerned," Ryan told the official Supercars website. "He's just a hard-arse racer, that's what we need in this category and in our team."

David Reynolds and race engineer Alistair McVean

David Reynolds and race engineer Alistair McVean

In the weeks that followed Bathurst it was mostly radio silence from both Reynolds and Erebus about 2021, apart from sporadic comments about there being a contract in place. Nobody expected it to be honoured, though, as well-placed sources painted the picture of Reynolds, McVean and current Erebus sponsor Penrite at Kelly Racing next year.

That side of things is still technically TBA, but the Erebus split is official. Nobody can say much about what happened - likely due to agreements put in place during the contract dissolution - but there are clear signs of frustration from both sides.

"When you leave a team it's a shit feeling," said Reynolds on the most recent Below the Bonnet podcast. "No matter if you leave on good or bad terms, it's a shit feeling. You love everyone there, you've been part of the team for five years and you get to know everyone so well. It's very, very sad because I've poured my heart and soul into that team. To end one year into a 10-year deal, it's not a very good feeling. But I think it's the best for myself and the best for them as well.

"This year was a very, very difficult year for everyone. It was a very strange year. I don't really want to go into what happened, because it's all... it's all in the past. I'm trying to move on with my life and start again. I've learnt a shit-ton this year, everything from racing to people skills. Every year you either win or you learn. And we didn't win a lot this year, but we learnt a lot. And I learnt a lot about myself and how to get the most out of myself. And what I need to go forward."

Klimenko, meanwhile, took to social media to have her say.

"I can't go into the details, as they are private, but I can say that I was completely turned around through this whole process," Klimenko wrote. "It was a shame that things turned out the way they did, it was not one person's fault or one person's actions that brought this on. I can only wish Dave a healthy and happy future, and thank my team, for being the most amazing group of guys and girls who have gone through it all this year.

"You can not go forward when a few people don't row in the same direction, and I hope that we have now put the right people, with their hearts in the right place, to get that boat over the finishing line."

Erebus CEO Barry Ryan

Erebus CEO Barry Ryan

The boat reference isn't levelled at Reynolds alone. McVean has left the team too, as have Anton De Pasquale and his race engineer Mirko De Rosa. Given Ryan's brash, no-nonsense management style was made so public by the Supercars-produced Inside Line documentary that aired earlier this year, he's worn the blame for the exodus - something that's left Klimenko fuming.

"In my life I have met con artists, would-be-if-they-could-bes, back-stabbers... you name it I have met them," she wrote on Facebook several days before the Reynolds news broke. "But I can tell you, with hand on heart, that Barry Ryan is NOT one of them.

"I put this volcano of hate and blame, at the feet of Supercars. Barry does not deserve the hate and ridicule he has been getting on social media. Supercars wanted a villain, and they used Barry. We had no say in what was put out. We were told we did, but as all things go they did as they wanted. Things were taken out of context, moments that can be seen up and down the field by every owner and team principal. The yelling and supposed bullying was nothing more or less than you would hear in any team. Decisions are made in nanoseconds, some are right and some are wrong.

"I have had a shit month, and it will all come out at some time, but I refuse to see one of the most warm-hearted, kind and honourable men being mocked and ridiculed.

"And if people come or go, it is not because of Barry. He has been there since the beginning, it's not like people didn't know him or his personality. And there are a few who took advantage of the way he was betrayed, to kick up a shit storm over it.

"I, for one, am willing to put my life and business in his hands."

The two different sides will tell two different stories, but there's no spin in that final line from Klimenko. When forced to pick between Reynolds and Ryan, she made a clear choice to back the man who rebuilt her team from the ground up once before.

Now he has to do it again.

David Reynolds and Anton De Pasquale

David Reynolds and Anton De Pasquale

 

Be part of Motorsport community

Join the conversation
Previous article Kostecki joins Erebus for 2021 Supercars season
Next article The Top 10 Supercars drivers of 2020

Top Comments

There are no comments at the moment. Would you like to write one?

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Motorsport prime

Discover premium content
Subscribe

Edition

Global