He has been the topic of discussion amongst the V8 Supercar fraternity for much of the off-season, but today was a different kind of spotlight for New Zealand ace Shane van Gisbergen.
Having controversially changed teams from Stone Brothers Racing to Tekno Autosports across the off-season, van Gisbergen delivered his new team immediate results by rocketing to pole position at the Clipsal 500 Adelaide today, jumping Craig Lowndes and Mark Winterbottom to take the top spot for the first race of 2013.
The VIP Petfoods Tekno Autosport Holden was second-last on the circuit in today’s shootout and put used his usually committed style to take the top spot and the ARMOR ALL pole award by just 0.04s.
His lap of 1m21.3595s was actually slower than last year’s pole time: however it was enough to further push the 22-year-old New Zealander into the spotlight – one that is already intensely focussed on him, though for different reasons.
The Pepsi Max Crew FPR Ford of Mark Winterbottom was the biggest improver of the day, leaping from 8th position in qualifying to second via a stunning Shootout lap – and held the top spot for much of the shootout before van Gisbergen bumped the brightly liveried Ford back to second.
Provisional polesitter Craig Lowndes was the last on the track and, for a moment, looked like he would convert his provisional pole to the top spot in the shootout – but fell short by a fraction of a second after a committed lap, ultimately slipping two places to third.
The three were split by just 0.08s, continuing a day of remarkably close competition by the next-generation V8 Supercars being tested in the heat of battle for the first time today.
Today’s effort marked the first pole position for Tekno Autosport and the second in van Gisbergen’s career, though the first he’s earned as a ‘solo’ driver.
“It’s amazing. Thanks to the team, they’ve done a great job,” he said following his pole-winning lap.
“We’ve been amongst it all weekend. Thanks to the Webb family, and the Quinn family at VIP. It’s been a big offseason so it’s good to deliver this.
“I’m not paying attention to the stuff going on outside the car – I don’t even have a working phone at the moment. I just get in there and drive it. Thanks to everyone for their support and it’s great to be here.”
A nervous Winterbottom watched six cars try to topple his strong lap-time and ultimately fell just short of a 26th career pole position – but after some questioned the factory Ford squad’s pace earlier in the day, Winterbottom’s turnaround to the front row of the grid was a welcome relief to Ford fans.
“The car felt pretty good. You do the time and stand and wait and you don’t know if it’s god enough,” he said.
“When you finesse the lap and critique it there are bits here and there, but it’s not really worth looking at it. Good luck to Shane – he’s had a pretty interesting off season but has come back and bounced on – so we’ll go for it tomorrow.
“The suspense here is tough – you don’t’ know for 30-seconds where you’re going to end up. You just stand here, pray, and hope you end up on the front row.”
Fabian Coulthard matched his career-best qualifying effort by placing his Lockwood Racing Holden fourth, defending champion Jamie Whincup ending fifth.
Jonathon Webb, Will Davison, Alex Premat, James Courtney and Scott McLaughlin completed the ten, no driver finishing the shootout in the same position that they started it.
The V8 Supercars will return to the circuit tomorrow morning at 08:45am for a morning warmup session, prior to the first race of the championship commencing at 14:35pm local time – to be contested over 78 laps of the demanding 3.22km circuit.