'HOME' ROUND HOPES FOR VAN GISBERGEN THIS WEEKEND They'll be the usual home round hopes for the Yatala, Queensland-based Stone Brothers Racing squad and their SP Tools-backed young gun Shane van Gisbergen as this year's V8 Supercar championship...
'HOME' ROUND HOPES FOR VAN GISBERGEN THIS WEEKEND
They'll be the usual home round hopes for the Yatala, Queensland-based Stone Brothers Racing squad and their SP Tools-backed young gun Shane van Gisbergen as this year's V8 Supercar championship series heads to Ipswich this weekend for the ninth round of the 2009 championship series at Queensland International Raceway.
However the 20-year-old from Auckland says he'll be happy just to get through the round without any major dramas.
It's been a roller-coaster run for the talented young Kiwi since the fifth series round in Tasmania in May where a problem with his car's engine saw it stall as he left the pits in the second race.
Grip - or rather the lack of it - was the problem at the next round in Darwin in June, then a pit stop mix-up in the first race and a problem with his car's steering rack in the second torpedoed his hopes at the new event in Townsville a month later.
His luck was no better at the most recent round at Melbourne's Sandown circuit either, with a heavy practice crash on Friday, and an early end to his weekend after a big hit from behind in the second race on Sunday.
So you can understand why his own expectations are a little bit more realistic this weekend.
"That's right" he says. "Really all I want to do is get through this round with no mistakes from anyone in a good car so that we can starting climbing back up the leader board."
To that end the young gun is buoyed by the fact that Stone Brothers Racing had a positive day-long test at Queensland International Raceway last Thursday with all hands to the pump (as it were) to put three competitive cars on the grid this weekend.
"It was definiely a big day," confirms van Gisbergen. "We got going just after seven (am) and it was all go until five.We went through a bunch of stuff and Alex (Davison), Jason (Bright) and I were pretty much in the cars all day."
With testing limited teams have to cram as much as they can into days like this and van Gisbergen says that the competition is so tough these days it is very much sink or swim.
"I thought it was hard two years ago when I entered the series but every year it just seems to click up a notch. When I started there was maybe four-tenths of a second separating the top 20 cars. Now it's three tenths and it seems to be getting closer all the time."
Queensland International Raceway isn't one of Australia's great tracks but it provides its own unique set of challenges and with the sticky Dunlop Sprint tyres back on the menu this weekend van Gisbergen reckons you're going to have to be on the top of your game to get the most out of them through the circuit's even mix of fast and slow turns.
"It looks easy on paper but when you're there it's a different story," he says. "Three of the corners are what you could call slow which need good front end grip but the other three are medium to high speed where you need good rear end stability; so getting the balance right is absolutely vital."
After scoring just 60 points at the most recent round at Sandown van Gisbergen has now slipped from 12th to 16th place in the series points standings. That said he remains second Kiwi in the competition with only Fabian Coulthard ahead of him and plenty of big series names, including compatriots Steven Richards and Greg Murphy, behind.
This weekend's meeting in Queensland follows a similar format to the others held so far this year with testing on Friday, the first of two qualifying sessions plus the Top Ten Shootout and first 32 lap race on Saturday, then the second qualifying session and second, this time 65 lap, race on Sunday.