DUO SPEAKS EXCLUSIVELY WITH AUSTRALIA’S FIRST LADY OF MOTORSPORT AND OWNER OF EREBUS MOTORSPORT V8
BETTY KLIMENKO INTERVIEW SUZANNE SCHMIDT
IN THE MALE-DOMINATED WORLD of V8 Supercars, Betty Klimenko is a one-woman powerhouse with an irrepressible spirit. The multimillionaire property developer and owner of Erebus Motorsport V8, has single-handedly brought Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG to the V8 Supercar circuit. “I’ve always loved cars but the love of motor sport came about 14 years ago. My husband was the first one in, then I kind of included myself and then took a bigger slice every year,” Betty, 53, said. “It’s a hobby that became an obsession and I was able to use my skills from property to make it work. All big business is the same, whether it’s cars, or shopping centres or housing, you just insert the subject.” Bringing the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG into the current V8 Supercar season was no mean feat. “We did it in 109 days – it’s like having a baby in two months instead of nine. Most others develop their engines in 20 years – we developed a new engine that had never been used before and they all looked at me to push the button,” she said. “It’s been hard because of that reason – it’s also hard to get the fans to understand that I am a manufacturer – you have Holden, Ford, Holden, Nissan and Erebus, it’s not Mercedes. It’s just like buying a Chanel handbag, you can’t then put (the brand name) Chanel all over your house. We have the right to use the star on the car because it’s made around their car – but we can’t use the star or AMG logo on our merchandise.” Being a woman in an industry dominated by men is something Betty has taken in her stride. Among her achievements, she was the first woman to win a major race at Bathurst when her team claimed victory in the 2013 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour. “The other owners pat me on the back when I do a good job – if my job is not that good they ask do I know what I’ve done wrong,” she said. “They don’t genderise me at all which I really respect from them.”
When it comes to mentors, Betty lists her late father John Saunders at the top. “He taught me the old-fashioned way. I sat at the end of his desk for five years and watched – he made me start at the bottom of the heap and I worked my way up, but he was an inspiration. He showed me what to do and how to do it nicely,” she said. “Now my mentor would have to be Ryan Maddison – CEO of my company. We are the total opposites. He is the military type, perfect hairdo – he is just an amazing man and I’m just Betty – I wear whatever I want to wear and say whatever I want to say and that’s why we get on so well.” Betty considers herself “a bit of a character” who juggles the team’s commitments with being a wife, mother and grandmother. “I have three children and a grandchild but I’m not one of those grandmothers that does baby sitting – I live a very confusing life and I’m still young enough to have my turn,” she said. In the little time off Betty does have, she loves to paint. “Sometimes it’s sci-fi fantasy or it’s car related. I haven’t done it in quite a while. I used to go to sci-fi conventions – my youngest boys make sci-fi costumes and have a company called Find Your Collectables, but they make costumes for conventions as well. I’m a bit of a sci-fi nerd.” This will be Betty’s third Townsville 400 event, but her first with her new team. She said the Townsville 400 was something special. “I love it – it’s an event I look forward to. There’s something about Townsville that’s different. I love that they’re very enthusiastic up there,” she said.
“THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT TOWNSVILLE THAT’S DIFFERENT. I LOVE THAT THEY’RE VERY ENTHUSIASTIC UP THERE.” BETTY KLIMENKO
DUO MAGAZINE JUNE 2013 duomagazine.com.au 39
Published on May 31, 2013
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