The great kiwi hope of the V8 Supercars, Shane van Gisbergen will be targeting his third win of the season in balmy northern Queensland this weekend. The Sucrogen 400 street race meeting in Townsville will see ‘the Giz’ attempt to improve on his third place standing in the series.
It’s already been quite a year for the hard-driving 22-year-old from Auckland, his first V8 Supercar series win coming at his home round in Hamilton in April, his second in Darwin last month. The young Kiwi has shown plenty of form in his SP Tools Falcon round the 2.86km Townsville street circuit too, qualifying fifth quickest at the first Sucrogen event two years ago, and sixth last year. But getting the results has proved tricky to come by with Van Gisbergen’s efforts yielding a 12th in the first race and dnf in the second on his first attempt in 2009. Last year there was improvement with the familiar blue SP Tools Falcon crossing the line eighth in the first race and seventh in the second, the latter after a hard-won drive from P17 on the grid.
Turning quick practice pace on old tyres on Friday into consistent top three qualifying pace on new ones on Saturday and Sunday has been a challenge this season but a concerted effort from the team has seen progress made in this regard. There has certainly never been any doubt over van Gisbergen’s red hot pace in the races, or – for that matter – his ability to quickly and cleanly work his way through the traffic.
This weekend’s programme sees practice on Friday, the first qualifying session, Top Ten Shootout and first (72 lap) race on Saturday, then second qualifying session and second 72 lap race on Sunday.
Tyre-wise there is yet another variation on the hard/soft tyre theme, with each car allocated one set of the stickier and therefore quicker Dunlop ‘soft’ tyres per race. As to whether those tyres are used early to get a jump on the field or later to make a late-race charge, is up to the teams and their engineers and drivers.
Heading into this weekend’s meeting SP Tools-backed van Gisbergen lies third in the overall series points standings, 261 points behind championship leader Jamie Whincup and just 105 behind Whincup’s Vodafone Racing teammate Craig Lowndes who is second.
As well as being the best placed Ford driver in the competition at the moment (from Steven Johnson who is currently fifth and Will Davison who is sixth) van Gisbergen is also the best placed Kiwi from Fabian Coulthard who is eleventh and Greg Murphy who is 17th. Murphy will be in his 400th race this weekend (read news).
Check out a feature article on Shane van Gisbergen in the new NZV8 magazine, out next Monday.