Welcome back to Race Chaser Online’s 2014 V8 Supercars Championship Preview! The final preview for Thursday is all about one of the top Kiwis in the V8 Supercars Championship.
DRIVER: #97 – Shane van Gisbergen, V.I.P. Petfoods Holden Commodore VF
2013 TEAM POINTS FINISH: 4th
2013 HIGHLIGHT MOMENT: Shane’s win on Sunday and the overall victory at the Clipsal 500
For a driver that almost did not compete in the 2013 V8 Supercars Championship, Shane van Gisbergen had an excellent season.
The story of Shane’s 2013 actually starts on November 22, 2012. That was the day that he announced his departure from Stone Brothers Racing at the end of that season. For a driver that had enjoyed great success with SBR (he was the team’s highest finisher in the drivers points both seasons) and looked set to continue that run, the news of his exit from the sport came as a total shock. It was a move that almost no one in the V8 Supercars community predicted.
The press release from SBR contained the following quote from Shane regarding the reason for his sudden departure: “I am leaving V8 Supercars due to personal reasons which I do not wish to discuss in the public domain. I will be moving back home to New Zealand and have no fixed plans for the future.”
Later on, Shane would admit that he was desperate to get out of SBR — he was unhappy with his life, unhappy with the dour mood around the race team, clashed with some of the team’s powerful figures, and did not want to get caught up in the forthcoming glitz and glamour that Erebus Motorsport and their new Mercedes would bring to the team. Shane just wanted to race, and to have fun; he felt that he wasn’t having fun at SBR then, and that he wouldn’t have any more fun in the future.
Shane originally didn’t have any plans to race in the 2013 V8 Supercars Championship. But he got to thinking in the offseason, and decided that it would actually be better to run in the championship after all — if he could find an outfit where he could run well and have fun. Enter Jonathon Webb, who convinced Shane to make a return to the series in January of last year.
While Shane’s departure was a shocker in and of itself, the manner in which he returned made massive shockwaves in the V8 Supercars world- no one had ever walked away from the series only to return so quickly. It set a new precedent, and Shane became a highly controversial figure for it. His move turned all the old SBR fans against him (for what they saw as SvG “dumping” the team) and made him the focus of much media attention in the season opener at Clipsal.
With the spotlight, Shane struggled on Saturday after winning the pole for Race 1, ultimately retiring. But on Sunday, he came roaring back to dominate on Sunday and win Race 2, earning the overall title at the Clipsal 500 in the process. With the win, Shane answered any doubts as to what he could do with Tekno Autosport in 2013, and laid the groundwork for a remarkable season.
Despite the switch and the distractions that surrounded it, Shane earned another victory in the season finale in Sydney, and racked up nine podium finishes before the season came to a close. Teammate Jonathon Webb found the podium once in 2013, finishing second in the first Sydney race. However, his season was rather ordinary by all standards- a handful of top fives, a few poor finishes, but a season filled with finishes mostly in the middle of the pack.
For 2014, there are some changes at Tekno Autosport — Webb, whose car was underfunded in the two seasons he ran the full V8 Supercars schedule, decided to shut his team down in order to focus on the business end of Tekno. Realizing the talent he had secured in Shane, and looking at Shane’s incredible 2013 (given the circumstances), Webb decided it would be in his best interest to focus on running the team and making sure that Shane has the best team possible. Webb will return for the endurance races to be the co-driver for the #47 V.I.P. Petfoods Commodore.
This means that Tekno will only run Shane’s car in 2014, and by default will fall in the team points standings. However, that doesn’t mean that Shane can’t improve on his fifth-place finish in the drivers’ championship from a season ago. The street circuits on the V8 Supercars calendar will the the places where Shane will look to capitalize the most; of his nine podiums in 2013, five of them came in the races at Adelaide, Townsville, Surfers Paradise, and Sydney (where he finished in third and first). He will also want to continue his consistency from last season if he wants to finish fourth or better in the points- he only retired from two races all season long.
Interestingly, SvG’s greatest room for improvement can be found at the shorter permanent tracks on the schedule. Where other teams (like the Nissans) were best at tracks like Winton, Queensland, and Symmons Plains, Shane’s average finishes for a round were lowest at these tracks. He could also stand to improve upon his endurance race finishes- 12th and 11th at Sandown and Bathurst are not feats he will want to repeat in 2014.
There is no doubting that Shane van Gisbergen is one of the V8 Supercars’ best “wheelmen”- he has been fast in every ride he has driven in the Championship, and one wonders what he could do with equipment from the likes of Red Bull and FPR. That being said, he is good enough to get more out of the Tekno Autosports equipment than it should theoretically offer, and should continue to contend on a regular basis with the very best drivers in the series.
For more information on Tekno Autosport, visit http://tekno.com.au/autosports/ and http://www.vippetfoods.com.au/V8-Supercars/0,2892,19232,00.html.
And if you want some fact-checking: http://host.speedcafe.com.au/~stonebro/van-gisbergen-annouces-exit-from-v8-supercars/ and http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/sport/motor-sport/shane-van-gisbergen-clears-air-on-team-switch/story-fnec19wg-1226588763197.