Ross and Jim Stone have been hailed as highly popular additions to the Supercars Hall of Fame following an emotional induction at the Gala Awards in Sydney.
The pair of Queensland-based Kiwis held back tears as they accepted the accolade four years after selling their legendary Stone Brothers Racing outfit.
SBR competed in Supercars from 1998 to 2012, winning three championships (2003, 2004 and 2005) and a single Bathurst 1000 (1998).
In addition to its two-time champion Marcos Ambrose, SBR was also responsible for giving a host of future stars their first full-time Supercars drives in either the main or second-tier series.
The Stones' induction was followed by the now Triple Eight driver Van Gisbergen being handed his Supercars championship trophy and McLaughlin winning a second Barry Sheene Medal.
“You picked me out of New Zealand and it was a big risk to bring me over,” said Van Gisbergen to the brothers during his championship trophy acceptance speech, setting aside past issues.
“I'd only been racing for two and a half years in circuit racing and went straight into the main game.
“It was a big call on your behalf and we had a pretty tough year the first two but we really grew, so thanks a lot Ross and Jimmy and congratulations.”
McLaughlin, who graduated to the main series with Garry Rogers Motorsport following his Development Series win, also paid tribute.
“You guys gave me my start and I wouldn't be here without you, so thank you,” he said after receiving the ‘best and fairest' Sheene Medal for the second time in three years.
Jim Stone, lauded as the engineering brain behind SBR, was typically brief with his speech, thanking Supercars, former SBR staff and “Australia for giving me the opportunity”.
Ross began his speech by congratulating Triple Eight principal Roland Dane and Van Gisbergen on their 2016 title.
“You deserve the title of championship winning driver, well done,” he said to Van Gisbergen.
Ross then struggled to hold in his emotions as he paid special thanks to his wife Di and his three children Anna, Nick and Emily, who all grew up to work in the SBR business.
“Motorsport is extremely consuming and I acknowledge that now,” he said.
“Di, you did not have a lot of support and you raised three kids while supporting my dream.”
Ross moved from New Zealand to Australia with his family in 1986, running a succession of cars and teams for other people including a highly successful stint at Dick Johnson Racing.
SBR was born when the brothers bought Alan Jones out of his share in the Alan Jones Racing outfit they had run during 1996 and 1997.
The Stones' ethos of promoting young talent was in place from the start, with Ross recalling his bold faith in then rookie Jason Bright to lead the squad through its first year.
“I went to a sponsor meeting in Sydney when we had Jason moving to Queensland to join us,” recalled Stone, noting that Bright was one of many youngsters to live in the family home while finding his feet.
“At this sponsor meeting the decision was this company would sponsor us subject to it being a ‘name' driver.
“I agreed that this situation was not negotiable so I stood up and thanked everyone and said that we had a plan and I needed to get to work.
“As I was leaving the meeting I heard someone following me. It was Glenn Duncan (Pirtek director) who had been sitting in on the meeting.
“A brief discussion followed and the very next day Pirtek Racing was born.
“In our first year Brighty and Steven Richards won Bathurst so I always felt it was special to pay back Glenn for Pirtek's support.”
Ross added that he often thinks about the fact that Winterbottom never drove for SBR's main team, having been loaned to Larkham Motor Sport following his Development Series crown.
“We put a deal together and plucked him straight from Formula Ford,” recalled Stone of Winterbottom, who went on to win Bathurst and a championship with Prodrive.
“Mark was paid a driving fee and didn't have to bring any funding so it was a unique deal.
“Mark, I've never told you this before but I made a promise to Larko not to poach you back if we ever had a seat open up.
“That's something I often think about.”
Ross added proudly that he never had an argument with Jimmy who, while only speaking briefly at the gala, stood alongside helping his brother turn the pages of his prepared speech.
“Jimmy and I worked together for a long time before and throughout the SBR era,” said Ross, who also paid tribute to all SBR employees throughout the years.
“I have to say we never had an argument and there were only a couple of times where we had to hit the reset button or delay and reboot the next day.”
An extensive list of acknowledgements included mention of the likes of late Ford boss Geoff Polites and a succession of the company's motorsport managers.
Stone also tipped his hat to Ambrose and fellow SBR Supercars champ Russell Ingall for their efforts during the team's dream run through 2003-05.
“We are very grateful that we could have drivers of your calibre work with us to win three championships,” he said.
“That was our ultimate dream and you helped us make that dream a reality.”
Jim Stone remains involved in Supercars through his son Matt's Dunlop Series team, while Ross left Erebus Motorsport at the end of 2014 and now restores cars from his own workshop on the Gold Coast.
Supercars Hall of Fame inductees
|Ross and Jim Stone