VAN GISBERGEN OFF ON 'THE BIG OE' Your first trip 'overseas' is real 'right-of-passage' stuff for young New Zealanders and Australians. And so it will be this weekend for Shane Van Gisbergen, the 18-year-old motor racing sensation signed by ...
VAN GISBERGEN OFF ON 'THE BIG OE'
Your first trip 'overseas' is real 'right-of-passage' stuff for young New Zealanders and Australians. And so it will be this weekend for Shane Van Gisbergen, the 18-year-old motor racing sensation signed by Stone Brothers Racing to compete in Australia's V8 Supercar Series.
Like most young Kiwis Van Gisbergen has crossed the Tasman on a regular basis but his trip to Bahrain for the annual 'away' round of the 2007 V8 Supercar series is his first trip outside Australasia.
Therefore it is one which he been looking forward to since Stone Brothers Racing placed him with Team Kiwi Racing.
"Definitely," he said on the eve of his departure."I've read up as much as I can about the place but I don't think anything can really prepare you for your first visit to a foreign country."
An island nation in the Persian Gulf, Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy presided over by the King, Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. A world-class Formula 1-spec circuit was opened there in 2004 and Australia's V8 Supercar series has been visiting since 2006.
Transporting just on 100 tonnes of cars and equipment from Australia and back is a mammoth logistical task accomplished by two specially outfitted Boeing 747-400 aircraft, one flying to and from Melbourne, the other Brisbane.
Like the rest of the circuits 18-year-old New Zealand 'wonderkid' Van Gisbergen has visited in Australia this year the track the V8 Supercars will use in Bahrain will be new to him.
However the canny young Kiwi has checked out the full 5.411 km Formula 1 circuit - courtesy a racing game - on his PC, and pored over the data from last year's race.
"While I know that we're not going to be using the same circuit as the Formula 1 cars it's still going to be really fast, " he says. " Last year the cars were using one of the tallest diff ratios we've got, so they should be good for 270-280 km/h on the straights. Apart from that I don't know much else bar the fact that because it is so new the circuit is going to be completely different to anything else we run on with lots of long, fast corners which are going to be very hard on tyres."
Having now driven the Team Kiwi Racing at Oran Park, Sandown, Bathurst and most recently the Gold Coast street race circuit Van Gisbergen says that he has a fairly good handle on what it takes to make it work. But he stresses that it is early days yet.
"One of the things that's being drummed into me at the moment is that you take one step at a time. James (Courtney, Stone Brothers Racing's ex F1 driver) did that and it's starting to pay off so that's what I'm doing."
You don't have to dig too far down to find the intensity and drive that marked the teenager out as one to watch here in New Zealand though. Aware that it can sometimes take days to get over the time difference between countries in the northern and southern hemispheres the 18-year-old spent the last week acclimatising himself to Bahrain time, forcing himself to stay up and get up late so that when he gets there later today his body and mind will be in a better position to adjust to local time.
As he says.
"It's better to be prepared than find yourself totally drained for the first couple of days!"
Shane Van Gisbergen competes with the personal support and assistance of the Team 97 Racing group comprising New Zealand companies The Metalman, Baron and Buxton Leathergoods, Pro Floors Ltd, TParts Ltd. and the Sierra Motor Company