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Exclusive: Mercedes-Benz eyeing V8 Supercars

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AMG C63 'Taxi' could be the first step for German brand's entry into local racing
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Mercedes-Benz Australia is set to unveil a race-prepared AMG C63 'ride-day taxi' later this month that could form the basis for a V8 Supercar. New 'Car of the Future' (CoF) regulations set to be implemented in 2012 are designed to allow new manufacturers into the sport and Mercedes is looking likely to take up the offer.

Mercedes-Benz Australia Senior Manager of Corporate Communications, David McCarthy, has confirmed to the Carsales Network that the C63 'taxi' is nearing completion in the Melbourne workshop of Brock Engineering.

"We're building an AMG ride-day taxi," McCarthy said. "When you look at the Car of the Future guidelines there is something we can look at."

McCarthy was quick to make it clear that Mercedes-Benz headquarters in Germany expressly forbid any motorsport from its local operations. But that doesn't rule out any participation from the three-pointed star in V8 Supercars because teams and dealers would be free to enter a Mercedes against the current Holden/Ford duopoly.

Although McCarthy ruled out official involvement from Mercedes-Benz Asia Pacific, he did admit the company would be willing to accommodate private entries.

"We would connect them with people in Germany," he said.

Brock Engineering is run by James Brock, son of late racing legend Peter. The operation has plenty of racing experience and has carried out extensive modifications to the C63. The 'taxi' will be stripped and fitted with a racing rollcage and feature suspension and exhaust modifications.

Once completed the taxi would be used for AMG drive days at Phillip Island with former motorcycle world champion Mick Doohan expected to handle the driving duties for VIPs and customers.

Although McCarthy wouldn't reveal any details our well-placed sources indicate the ride car will be used as a test bed for any future V8 Supercar.

Former V8 Supercar champion Mark Skaife has led the shaping of the CoF rulebook and although no official details have been revealed it is believed to open the sport up to a much wider range of cars and manufacturers.

McCarthy did admit that the company did find competing in V8 Supercars appealing, despite the fact Holden and Ford are not considered marketplace rivals.

"At the end of the day the sort of racing -- whether it's Formula One, DTM (German Touring Car), rallying or V8 Supercars -- is about showcasing the brand," McCarthy said. "There are a lot of people watching V8 Supercars these days and a lot of those people are starting to buy increasingly expensive HSVs and FPVs."

It is understood the new rules will use a common chassis and allow independent rear suspension to replace the aging live rear axle and nine-inch Ford differential used in the current cars.

But the biggest change is expected to focus on the engine bay. Even though V8 engines will be retained the category will no longer demand pushrod, 16-valve units; instead more modern double overhead cam (DOHC), 24-valve engines with different capacities will be allowed.

According to industry speculation the new rules will use a performance balancing system to allow the new engines to compete alongside the old.

Under these changes Mercedes-Benz would be able to use its already developed DTM 4.0-litre DOHC V8. That unit is believed to capable of producing up to 447kW not too far shy of the current V8 Supercar engines from Holden and Ford that are believed to be tuned to 484kW.

The new engine rules would also allow other manufacturers with similar V8 engines to consider V8 Supercar racing. Audi competes against Mercedes-Benz in the DTM and fellow German, BMW, races with a 4.0-litre V8 in its FIA GT2-specification M3.

DTM organisers have recently been in talks the Japanese Super GT rule makers about common regulations. That could open up the possibility of Toyota, Honda and Nissan which all use similar-sized DOHC, 24-valve V8 engines in Super GT.

Nissan Australia has previously expressed an interest in returning V8 Supercars following its brief run as official safety car supplier last year. Hyundai has also been linked to the sport when the new CoF rules come into force, repeatedly refusing to either confirm or deny any interest in going racing.

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Published : Tuesday, 9 March 2010

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