VAN GISBERGEN IN BUOYANT MOOD HEADING TO TASMANIA Having thoroughly enjoyed his recent back-to-back test with Ford Performance Racing's Mark Winterbottom, this weekend's round of the V8 Supercar championship series at Symmons Plains in Tasmania...
VAN GISBERGEN IN BUOYANT MOOD HEADING TO TASMANIA
Having thoroughly enjoyed his recent back-to-back test with Ford Performance Racing's Mark Winterbottom, this weekend's round of the V8 Supercar championship series at Symmons Plains in Tasmania can't come round quick enough for Stone Brothers Racing's young SP Tools-backed Kiwi Ford driver Shane van Gisbergen.
"Seriously," he said as he prepared to leave his home on the Gold Coast to fly to Launceston for what is now the fifth round of this season's series. "I can't wait to get down there. I know it isn't but it feels like weeks since I've been in the car."
With sixth and 12th placings at the most recent round at Winton in Victoria, van Gisbergen moved up to eighth place in the overall series points standings for the year and is hoping for another strong showing in Tasmania on the back of testing done by both the Stone Brothers Racing and Ford Performance Racing teams between the two rounds.
In a major step forward for the series' two Ford-backed teams van Gisbergen was invited to drive Winterbottom's car at a test at Winton the Tuesday after the latest round and two days later Winterbottom drove van Gisbergen's car at a Stone Brothers Racing test day at Queensland International Raceway.
As Stone Brothers Racing team principal Ross Stone said when the joint venture was announced; " Being that SBR and FPR are the only two official Ford-sponsored teams I think this test exchange is a perfect fit to keep is working hard to get the results that we both expect."
And having now driven the Winterbottom car van Gisbergen says the test certainly gave him something to think about.
"It was interesting because, obviously, I've only ever driven Stone Brothers cars, and his (Winterboottom's) was different, very different to mine."
So far this year van Gisbergen has shown plenty of speed in practice - he was second quickest in the second practice session at Winton on the Friday - and real tiger in the races. Qualifying has, however, been a problem, though he believes progress has been made since Winton.
"To be honest," he says," I'm sick of ending up 11th (and just outside the Top 10 Shootout). We seem to be able to get the car to a level but then the other guys find that little bit more and we end up being shuffled back."
Qualifying will certainly be important this weekend thanks to the compact nature of the 2.4 km Launceston track which the V8 Supercars lap in just 51 seconds.
This will be van Gisbergen's third visit to the circuit in north-east Tasmania and the just-turned 20-year-old is always happy heading there. One of the reasons is that Tasmania reminds him of home - 'it's so green, particularly at this time of the year' - and another is that though it is relatively short and straight nailing a good lap time isn't as easy as it might look.
"That's right," he says, "though there's really only three sections to it a good lap is all about brakes and getting the power down. Get it right and you're away, get it wrong and everyone's so close that even a tenth (of a second) can be the difference between something like fifth or sixth and 15th."
This weekend's meeting officially starts tomorrow (Friday) with practice before the first qualifying session, Top 10 Shootout and first (42 lap) race on Saturday, then second qualifying session and second (84 lap) race on Sunday.
After this weekend's round there is then a three week break before the sixth round of the 2009 V8 Supercar series at Darwin's Hidden Valley Raceway.
This weekend Shane and Team 97 will remember and recognise the contribution of Justin Robinson, the Auckland man responsible for Shane's personal website. Justin died as a result of a brain aneurism on the eve of the Winton round of the V8 Supercar series at the beginning of the month.