QUESTION TIME WITH SHANE VAN GISBERGEN
The countdown has begun for the first round of the 2008 Australian V8 Supercar championship at the Clipsal 500 meeting in Adelaide over the February 23-24 weekend.
There, behind the wheel of Stone Brothers Racing's SP Tools-backed # 9 Ford Falcon, will be 18-year-old Auckland, New Zealand, racing driver Shane Van Gisbergen.
Here he talks about his debut in the V8 Supercar championship last year, and updates us on what has been happening since then.
Q: Hi Shane. So the news is out, a full-on gig with Stone Brothers Racing in Australia's V8 Supercar championship. How do you feel about that?
SVG: Well what can I say! It's something that I have been working towards and to get here in such a short time is awesome! I can't wait for the new season to start and hopefully we can hit the ground running. I would like to thank the Stone Brothers for their support, also SP Tools who are the main sponsor on the car, and my family without whom I would never have got here! I'm feeling that I will be a great season for SBR and myself.
Q: You got thrown in at the deep end last year with Stone Brothers Racing putting you in the Team Kiwi car. You did seven rounds of the 2007 series including the Sandown and Bathurst Enduros. Looking back now which do you rate as your best round last year?
SVG: Yes I did the last seven rounds of the championship, and I think my best round was Bahrain. It didn't start particularly well because we ran a different brake pad to the other SBR cars which was fine in practice and we were in the top half of the field, but come qualifying time when I was really on it the brakes just couldn't keep up and I found myself just locking rear brakes, which of course then you instinctively put bias towards the front of the car which makes it even worse! So we qualified in the early 20s. But our race was extremely good and I was 15,16,13 in the races. The last race was my favourite as we had a bad pit stop and lost six seconds, but I set off back after the mid pack group and consistently set times that the top six cars were doing, and finished up with the sixth fastest time.
Also the grand Final at Phillip Island was a great round for us as I finally made the top 20 (16th). I made up places in the first two races however in the last race I must have had a huge target on the back of my car, because in the first lap I went from 12th to 27th and it had me wondering if I was at a stockcar race rather than a Supercar one.
Q: Following on from that question, which was your worst round? Or to put it another way, which one were you the least satisfied with?
SVG: Probably Bathurst was the round I was least satisfied with. It started well, Johnny Mac and I were ninth in Practice 1, then we seemed to slowly slip downward. We were 29th in Qualifying when Damien White had a huge crash going over the top in front of me. There were still 10 or so minutes left in the session and I hadn't put in anything near what I would call a satisfactory lap. Time ran out and that was the end of the session. Fortunately V8 Supercar extended the session for a further 10 minutes so I had to quickly put all my gear back on and we were back into it. I was on a flyer of a lap which would have been a 2.09.2ish which would have put us well inside the top 20, but I caught the edge of the track and spun off at the last corner and got beached so 29th it was.
Then in the race I was following Glenn Seton in one of the HRT cars and through 'The Grate' I took too tight an arc around the corner and just nicked the wall on the exit. I didn't believe that I hit the wall, I thought I had just run up on the kerb, but that was the Watts Linkage broken. We got that fixed and ran seven laps down all day. The car was not perfect but Johnny and I set really competitive times all day long.
Q: To this year now and you had a bit of a break at home in Auckland over Xmas/New Year then you headed back to Oz. So, tell us a bit about what you've been doing since? i.e. Found a place to live yet? Been recognized in the street by a fan yet? And apparently it's been a bit wet over there of late. Bet that reminds you of home eh?
SVG: It was great to get home over the Christmas break. I had a lot of fun, whether it was spending time with the family, riding BMX bikes or going Wakeboarding with some friends. It was great. Probably the most fun I had was riding a quad again, seeing as my bike had been sold I had to 'borrow' my sisters. Dad has only recently started riding again so it was great to go riding with him. Because of Lauren's bike's small capacity (250cc against the 700 I usually run) normally I never would have had a chance so I had to make our track around home a little more tighter and technical than usual, which made for some great racing but frustrating for me as I could never hold a pass cause I would just get passed back down the next straight! But good fun all the same.
Back over here in Oz it's been really good too, although the weather hasn't been. I have been working in the workshop helping out the sign writer Scott, as you can imagine at the start of the year with three cars he is really busy - not only does he have to do the race car panels, he also has to do all the spare panels and the race trucks as well! So I have been doing as much as I can to help him and enjoying it at the same time!
Q: To the 2008 season now. I'm sure that Ross and Jimmy have got 'a plan' for you this year. But, you personally, what would you like to achieve? And - here's an interesting one - what will put a smile on your face when you're thinking back to this season in a couple of year's time? A top three? A pole? A wheel to wheel battle with Skaify (which you win) captured for us all to see on TV? In other words, how are YOU going to judge the year?
SVG: Yes they had set some goals themselves for me, but I had already set higher ones for myself. I am not expecting too much in the first half of the year, just nice solid results. But definitely in the latter half of the year I would like to be a genuine consistent top 10 driver. And if we can do that I will be very happy and then that gives us a strong platform to build on for next year. I think also James Courtney will be a great team mate. I have been spending a bit of time with him and he is a really nice guy, who is very open. It will be great having him to learn off this year as he has had plenty of experience in other formulas.
Q: Some details now. Who is going to be 'in your corner' at the races this year? .i.e. Who is your race engineer? And who will be working with you on the car?
SVG: My car engineer will be Nathan Leech, who was my engineer last year. The 'data guy' will be Steve Greer, and he is essentially a junior engineer who is moving up the ranks. Also we have just secured a #1 and #2 mechanic for the car, one from WPS and one from PWR. The mechanics on the car last year went with Russell to Morris Motorsports. There are also the truckies who double up as the tyre guys at meetings.
Q: Sponsors play a key role in any campaign. So you'd better go through the list of guys backing your car in 2008.
SVG: SP Tools, Ford, Castrol, AutoBarn, Man, Roland, Bosch, Navman, Duracell, Superflow, Baron Leather Goods NZ, PPG, Powermill,
Q: And what can you tell us about the '08 SBR Falcon?
SVG: The car I'm starting the year with is the same car I used last year, so it shouldn't be hard to settle back in. James used the car for 2006 and the first half of '07 then he got a new car mid season. I will use my car till at least the WA round when I will get James' car while he gets a new car. The guys have been working real hard on the development of the cars and I think we should be pretty sharp this year.
Q: Bit about living in Oz now. How are you handling the heat? Found any good places to ride a Quad yet?
SVG: It's always hot here, no matter what the weather. And I have been to the beach a few times. I have relatives who live in a place called Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast which is about a two hours drive from where I am. It's always great to go and relax there over a weekend!
You can't help but notice that there are a lot of MX tracks around the place either! Plus lots of awesome 'homemade' tracks on my biking route on the way to work! One day it will be good to get back into the quad bikes again but for now the full focus is on the V8s.
Q: Fair enough. But what about fitness? Any chance of squeezing a little bit of two or four-wheel riding into your regime?
SVG: (Laughs). Not really! I go to the gym every morning. I do a cardio-based session with light weights, normally just over an hour's worth. Then I bike to work from Nathan's house in Coomera to SBR, which is 20 kms. At work I help out at the race shop during the day then bike home afterward. So as you can imagine the fitness levels are really starting to skyrocket! I have really stepped up in this area as Ross Stone tells me every day how physically demanding Adelaide is. Also running with a hoody and trackpants is very, very hard let me tell you!
Q: And one LAST question. You pretty much LIVED at the Stimulator (computer-based racing simulator business open to the public) in Papatoetoe? So have you; a) found one on the Gold Coast? or b) are you missing it like hell and finding that computer games just aren't the same?
SVG: Yes, The time I spent there was great, and the Hyper Simulator is very good. I used it mainly not so much to help my driving, but to learn tracks and to keep concentration for long periods of time, as the V8 races are over twice as long as anything I have done before! On that score I think Dad is trying to organise for me to get one over here as I feel they are a great help and also a load of fun!
Shane Van Gisbergen competes with the personal support and assistance of the Team 97 Racing group comprising New Zealand companies Baron Leathergoods NZ Ltd, Pro Floors Ltd, TParts Ltd, The Metalman Ltd and the Sierra Motor Company