CAN VAN GISBERGEN MAKE IT INTO THE TOP TEN THIS WEEKEND? Can young Kiwi gun Shane van Gisbergen finish this year's V8 Supercar championship series in the top ten? That's the key question as the 20-year-old SP Tools-backed Stone Brothers Racing...
CAN VAN GISBERGEN MAKE IT INTO THE TOP TEN THIS WEEKEND?
Can young Kiwi gun Shane van Gisbergen finish this year's V8 Supercar championship series in the top ten?
That's the key question as the 20-year-old SP Tools-backed Stone Brothers Racing Ford Falcon driver prepares for the popular Australian series' 'Grand Final' at the new Olympic Park street circuit in mid-west Sydney suburb Homebush.
Currently van Gisbergen is the top Kiwi in the competition in 11th place with 1790 points, 81 less than tenth placed Holden driver Russell Ingall and 53 in front of local hero Michael Caruso.
"I did have a look at the points the other night," van Gisbergen said from Sydney this morning, "and, yes, there's definitely the possibility of getting closer to Russell, particularly if we have another strong run like we did at Phillip Island (where van Gisbergen finished fourth overall). With it being a new venue and only the two races though there's a bit more to this round than some of the others, but yes, if we have a good weekend and he doesn't, the chance is there."
This weekend's meeting is one of the most highly anticipated since New Zealand's first Hamilton street race with the NSW premier Nathan Rees kicking things off on Monday with a special celebration at Sydney's Opera House.
After years of struggling to capture the imagination of Sydney fans at permanent circuits like Oran Park and Eastern Creek the street race round Sydney's Olympic Park in Homebush has certainly struck a chord with ticket sales even exceeding the expectations of V8 Supercars Australia Chairman Tony Cochrane.
"We are about, " he said earlier this week. " to pull off the biggest sporting and entertainment extravaganza Sydney has ever seen, during what is going to be Sydney's biggest weekend of sport."
The idea of a street circuit event is certainly a good one, considering the fact that the expansive venue in the heart of Sydney's inner-west has been under-utilised since it hosted the Olympics in 2000.
As far as the 2.415 km track is concerned the drivers will not find out how well-suited it is to their big, powerful cars until tomorrow (Friday) though van Gisbergen has checked out a virtual version on the Hyper Stimulator.
"From what I've seen, " he says, "it's quite a cool track, fast but also quite tight in places. The key, obviously, will be to get on top of it quickly and run up the front."
Format-wise the event reverts to a Clipsal 500-style two 250 lap 'mini-enduro' format without the sticky tyre option offered most recently at Barbagallo Raceway.
It's an recipe, that, if the Clipsal 500 is anything to go by, will suit van Gisbergen. There he qualified 12th and finished sixth in the first race and 13th in the second.
Action on the new circuit begins on Friday with practice then qualifying and the Top Ten Shootout on Saturday morning before the first 250km race on Saturday afternoon and the second on Sunday.