VAN GISBERGEN KEEN FOR AN '08 REPEAT AT SANDOWN THIS WEEKEND Last year's Sandown round marked something of a breakthrough for New Zealand V8 Supercar driver Shane van Gisbergen. And the 20-year-old Kiwi young gun reckons a repeat of his '08 ...
VAN GISBERGEN KEEN FOR AN '08 REPEAT AT SANDOWN THIS WEEKEND
Last year's Sandown round marked something of a breakthrough for New Zealand V8 Supercar driver Shane van Gisbergen. And the 20-year-old Kiwi young gun reckons a repeat of his '08 performance at the suburban Melbourne track this weekend would be a good way to get his '09 season back on track.
"A podium is certainly what we're aiming for," the SP Tools-backed Stone Brothers Racing driver said this morning."We didn't quite have the outright speed of the other guys last year but the car was good off the corners so when we were in front we were able to stay there."
Though he didn't qualify particularly well van Gisbergen, then just 19-years-of age and in his first full season in a V8 Supercar, stormed to second place behind Craig Lowndes in the second race then after starting the final from the front row of the grid finished fourth after an entertaining race-long battle for the position with the experienced Todd Kelly.
Former SpeedSport Scholarship winner and New Zealand Formula Ford champion van Gisbergen has shown plenty of signs of the same sort of swash-buckling form this year.
But having made a real step forward in Tasmania, where he qualified fourth for the first race and seventh for the second then claimed seventh placings in both races, he has suffered two frustrating rounds in a row, with grip issues in Darwin and a combination of problems in the pits and apparently one-off steering rack cracks at Townsville.
Despite that Queensland-based van Gisbergen is his usual upbeat self heading south (to Melbourne) accepting that it was the unique way the cars were riding the curbs at Townsville which contributed to the steering rack issue and reiterating the fact that he is very happy with his new car (which he raced for the first time at Townsville).
"It (the new car) is really good. We might still be lacking a bit of horsepower compared to the other top guys but if we can get the car itself good enough then we can make up for that."
And that is despite the fact the with its long straights Sandown is one of the faster circuits on the V8 Supercar calendar.
"The difference, I think, " says van Gisbergen, "is that unlike, say, Pukekohe which is also build round the outside of a horse racing track and has the same sort of look and feel to it, Sandown does't have any really high-speed corners. It's got the straight but the corners tend to be quite slow so the key is to get out of them well."
After a break at Townsville, drivers again have the option of using a set of the new, stickier Dunlop Sprint tyre this weekend, another thing van Gisbergen is looking forward to.
"They're great. I like them and for some reason they seem to suit our car, so yeah, any round where they're available is a good round as far as I'm concerned."
Under the new 2009 weekend package, practice for this weekend's Norton 360-backed Sandown round starts on Friday with qualifying, the Top 10 Shootout and first 32 lap race on Saturday, then a second qualifying session and final 65 lap race on Sunday.
Defending series champion Jamie Whincup currently leads the 2009 points standings at what is effectively the half way point with Holden drivers Will Davison and Garth Tander second and third respectively and Ford man Steven Johnson fifth.
After his Townsville problems van Gisbergen has slipped to 12th place but is second Kiwi behind Fabian Coulthard and ahead of Jason Richards and Greg Murphy.