Australia's largest car retailer, Super Cheap Auto, has signed up with Steve Ellery Racing for another year, quashing rumours that it would leave the Queensland-based team.

Managing director Bob Thorn announced at the start of this weekend's Surfer's Paradise event that the decision was partly based on his belief in the team's ability to become a future force in V8 racing, particularly after two podium finishes in the recent endurance events at Sandown and Bathurst.

"Super Cheap Auto is involved in V8 Supercars for one reason and that is for exposure," Thorn admitted, "Steve Ellery Racing's performance over the last several rounds has been impressive, and we think that it is on the verge of accomplishing something very special.

"The Sandown and Bathurst results were very pleasing - the team earned its place on the podium - but our decision to remain with Steve Ellery Racing was not based on these two results alone. The team has showed marked improvement since Perth and, had it not been for situations beyond its control at Oran Park, the team would have been travelling to Bathurst with four top ten results to its name.

"We recognise that the category is one of the toughest in the world. There's not much in it, but the team is improving. It's shown that it is committed to success and is, I believe, a team capable of being a regular top-five performer. We'd like to think that several of those performances will transfer into podium placings.

"We have confidence in Steve Ellery as a driver, and in the team. Albeit small, it is a group of very talented, knowledgeable men and Bruce Ellery has put in place a solid, professional infrastructure."

Thorn admitted that he was also loathe to break up the partnership after building such a strong team culture.

"Super Cheap Auto has developed a very strong, professional working relationship between the race team and our team members," he explained, "Super Cheap Auto started small and worked hard to compete with, and beat, the largest auto retailers in the country. Steve Ellery Racing is akin to us, battling hard to win over the large teams in the V8 paddock, so there are a lot of similarities between us.

"It is this shared culture that makes parting difficult. Super Cheap Auto can see that Steve Ellery Racing is able to compete and beat many of the leading V8 teams, and we think that we can get a lot out of this. Now would be the wrong time to leave."

Thorn also announced that Ellery would benefit from a renegotiated increase in budget for the 2004 season.

"Super Cheap Auto is understanding of the fact that knowledge and talent needs to be supported with budget," he reasoned, "With this in mind, we have increased the race team's budget for 2004. Without giving away details, we are confident that this budget increase will make a difference.

"The deal is for one year at this stage, but with the expected improvement in the short term and some strong results, the aim of Super Cheap Auto is to be there for the long term."

By making the announcement this weekend, Thorn said that he hoped that all the incorrect rumours and innuendo about the company's supposed departure from the V8 scene would cease, allowing the team to concentrate on racing.

"There were a lot of rumours going around the paddock that were just untruths," he said, "Our sponsorship agreement with Steve Ellery Racing was always valid through
to the end of the 2003 season - we knew that and so did the team.

"Every business looks at its options seeking a best fit for the business, and Super Cheap Auto was no different. We spoke with other teams, attempting to ascertain what our options were but, in the end, realised that it was beneficial for us to stay with Steve Ellery Racing.

"The deal that we struck kept us on track, and Steve Ellery Racing also, so we are both very pleased with the outcome. Rather than listen to some of the rumours being spread, it would have been easier for those spreading them to approach Super Cheap Auto officially and we would have told them that we were always in continuous negotiation with Steve Ellery Racing. Nothing had been signed off, both Super Cheap Auto and Steve Ellery Racing knew this, so it was wrong of some people to think otherwise."

Steve Ellery was naturally thrilled to learn of the extended deal.

"This announcement couldn't have come at a better time," he said, "We've had a very close association with Super Cheap Auto over the last four years, so we are very happy that this relationship will continue.

"We really do feel like we are part of the Super Cheap Auto family. We keep in very close contact with Bob Thorn, Tom Panic, Kevin McAulay and the rest of the team.
Super Cheap Auto has done a lot to make sure that its team understands what we are all about. All its training managers come down to visit us and we give them a thorough tour of the workshop. It means a lot to us.

"I'm just glad that we can get on with the job of racing, knowing that we are going in the right direction and have the support of our sponsors. The last several rounds have been great, but we've still got a lot that we want to achieve and we know that, with continued hard work, we can reach our goals. We've got a very talented team here and, with Super Cheap Auto, we are looking forward to a long and successful relationship."

For team manager Bruce Ellery, the earlier-than-expected announcement has helped in his plans for the 2004 season.

"Our contract with Super Cheap Auto was due for renegotiation at the end of the year so, to have it sewn up between Bathurst and Indy, is good for the team," he admitted, "We can seriously plan for 2004 now and that is important.

"Part of the deal with Super Cheap Auto was that we retain our employees. Bob Thorn wanted to keep the entire team together as best we could, because he could see how talented the boys are. This says an awful lot about the commitment, talent and character of our team, and the boys should be very proud of themselves.

"We have learnt a lot this year on how to again become a competitive team, but our goal is to build on this. We've enjoyed some success over the last several rounds - two podiums and four top ten placings is quite an achievement.

"Next year is an important year for Steve Ellery Racing and Super Cheap Auto, so we want to think long-term. We've secured sponsorship in the short-term, so now we're now looking at 2005 and beyond."



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