Larger-than-life team owner Betty Kli­menko had only one man in mind when chas­ing a new driver, but there were two non-ne­go­tiable con­di­tions, writes James Phelps

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SPORT -

Betty Kli­menko handed Dave Reynolds the con­tract to drive for Ere­bus Mo­tor­sport.

“Now I have two con­di­tions,’’ Kli­menko said in her Gold Coast ho­tel room in 2015. “Two rules that must be obeyed.’’

Reynolds had been wait­ing for the con­di­tions.

“I just sat there think­ing ‘here we go’,’’ Reynolds said. “Here come the be­havioural clauses. I was al­ways get­ting in trou­ble at my for­mer team (Tick­ford Rac­ing) so I thought they were go­ing to put a leash on me.’’

Reynolds, known as the V8 joker, thought Ere­bus team owner Kli­menko was go­ing to tell him he was not al­lowed to throw flower pots.

That he wasn’t al­lowed to drink from his boot. That he was not al­lowed to re­fer to the all-fe­male car as the “pussy wagon’’. He was wrong. “I just told him my first rule was that he was not al­lowed to wear a flat-peaked cap,’’ Kli­menko said.

“I hate those things. And the sec­ond was that he was not al­lowed to wear thongs at the track, not only be­cause it is a safety is­sue but also be­cause it is a ter­ri­ble look.’’

Reynolds grabbed the con­tract and signed. “I was like, ‘is that it’?’’ Reynolds said.

“I didn’t wear flat caps any­way. I had a bit of an is­sue with not wear­ing thongs but I could live with it.’’

And so be­gan a match made in heaven — the V8 odd cou­ple who would shock the sport by win­ning the Bathurst 1000 in 2017.

“I think of us as Lau­rel and Hardy,’’ Kli­menko said. “We are both char­ac­ters and we are all about hav­ing fun. I of­ten look at him and tell him not to worry about get­ting in trou­ble. I tell him I will take the blame.’’

Kli­menko, all pur­ple hair, tat­toos and big bank bal­ance, and Reynolds, of flower pots and one lin­ers fame, both ad­mit to be­ing strange.

“That’s what makes us a per­fect cou­ple,’’ Reynolds said. “Betty is a dif­fer­ent sort of per­son. She is a big char­ac­ter and does things her own way. I do, too. I ac­tu­ally re­mem­ber the first time I met her. It was at the back of her garage in 2012. I have no idea what the con­ver­sa­tion was about but I left know­ing that I would drive for her one day.

“I just clicked with her and de­cided she was my type of per­son.’’

Reynolds was also Kli­menko’s kind of per­son. The larger-than-life team owner only had one driver in mind when Will Dav­i­son an­nounced he would be leav­ing the team at the end of 2015.

“Fate stepped in and said that we be­longed to­gether,’’ Kli­menko said. “I had watched him since he was a boy and I al­ways thought that he was a great driver. I just thought he was al­ways kept on a tight leash. I thought he just needed to have it pulled off.’’

That is why Kli­menko didn’t put any be­havioural clauses in Reynolds’ con­tract.

“I wasn’t go­ing to tell him to change his be­hav­iour,’’ Kli­menko said. “I just wanted to put him out there and let him be him­self. And that has been the key to get­ting the

most out of him. Dave has a unique per­son­al­ity and he needs to be in the right frame of mind.

“You need to get him up and put his brain in the right place. For him you have to get him happy. You

know he will be at his best when he is smil­ing from ear-to-to-ear.’’

“I had watched him since he was a boy and I al­ways thought that he was a great driver. I just thought he was al­ways kept on a tight

leash. I thought he just needed to have it pulled off.’’

And Reynolds will this week be all smiles when he re­turns to the scene of his great­est tri­umph — Mount Panorama.

The Holden star will strap down for next week­end’s Bathurst 1000 as the reign­ing cham­pion af­ter de­fy­ing the odds to win with his per­fect part­ner.

“That was the great­est mo­ment of my ca­reer,’’ Reynolds said. “And it was made so much bet­ter by be­ing able to do it with Betty af­ter the faith she showed in me.

“I hon­estly love driv­ing for her. I used to walk around scared at my last team, al­ways wor­ried I was about to get in trou­ble for some­thing. Now I just have fun and go out and race.’’

Kli­menko is hop­ing Reynolds finds his happy place this week.

“That was his zen last year,’’ Kli­menko said.

“And I don’t think I will have to do any­thing to get him there this year. He just wants to get that feel­ing back that he had when he won it. I don’t have to do a thing.’’

And as for those con­di­tions? The hats and the thongs?

“The cheeky bug­ger tried it on once,’’ Kli­menko said.

“He tried wear­ing thongs into the garage. I think that is the only time I have yelled at him.

“And no. I still won’t let him wear thongs if he wins Bathurst again next week.’’

Dave Reynolds and Betty Kli­menko have en­joyed suc­cess, win­ning last year’s Bathurst 1000. Pic­ture: Mark Hors­burgh

The boot fits as Reynolds cel­e­brates an­other win.

Reynolds and Kli­menko are look­ing for back-to-back suc­cess.

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