EARLY PROMISE BODES WELL FOR VAN GISBERGEN THIS WEEKEND A strong start to the season bodes well for Kiwi young gun Shane van Gisbergen as he heads to Winton in rural Victoria for the fourth round of this year's V8 Supercar series. The ...
EARLY PROMISE BODES WELL FOR VAN GISBERGEN THIS WEEKEND
A strong start to the season bodes well for Kiwi young gun Shane van Gisbergen as he heads to Winton in rural Victoria for the fourth round of this year's V8 Supercar series.
The 19-year-old from Auckland, now in his second full season with top Ford team Stone Brothers Racing, currently lies ninth in the overall points standings with 282 points, just three behind top Holden driver Garth Tander who is eighth with 285.
Defending series champion, Triple 8 Racing Falcon driver Jamie Whincup, leads the standings with a whopping 600 points, 102 more than second placed Lee Holdsworth in the first of the Holdens, but with a further 11 rounds after Winton it is early days yet.
And van Gisbergen's early form suggests that a place in the top six is not out of the question this year.
"That's right," says the former SpeedSport Scholarship and MTA New Zealand Formula Ford championship winner." We didn't have as good a round at Hamilton as we were hoping for but we were quick at Adelaide and at the AGP meeting in Melbourne so if we can qualify well this weekend and make a few passes in the races there's no reason why we can't be up there again."
In his favour are two things.
The first the fact that he is revelling in the grip and handling of his new BF model SP Tools Ford Falcon, and the second is that this weekend the series organisers have added a new, super-sticky tyre into the race equation.
"Yes, " he says, " the new car is great, better all round, but particularly in the way it responds to the changes we make."
And the new Dunlop SP Sport Maxx 'Sprint' tyre?
The tyre - or rather the option to use it - has been introduced to add a new dimension to the racing, one which Dunlop's V8 Operations Manager, Kevin Fitzsimons, believes will be highly entertaining.
"Compared to Dunlop's Control tyre, the Sprint is designed to be significantly faster earlier -- around one to 1.5 seconds per 60-second lap faster -- before wearing out rapidly.(This means that using a set ) will provide the speed to charge through the field, however, it will also mean more pit-stops so team tyre strategies will be critically important."
Though he will not get to see for himself the difference the new tyre makes until tomorrow (when teams will be issued with special sets to try) van Gisbergen likes what he has heard so far.
"It's certainly going to spice things up a bit. The cars are at their best - more fun to drive too - when they've got a lot of grip and that's what the new tyre is going to do, give you a lot of grip. It's not going to last long - from what they're saying the advantage over the control tyre will only last for 20 laps or so - but you can do a lot in 20 laps...."
In practice tomorrow the new tyres will have a distinctive pink sidewall so that teams aren't tempted to use them again, then in qualifying this weekend and at subsequent rounds where they are an option they will have yellow sidewalls so race fans can see who is using them and when.
The tight, twisty Winton circuit is a far cry from purpose-built 21st century autodromes like Bahrain or even other high-speed Australian circuits like Phillip Island and Bathurst the V8 Supercars visit but van Gisbergen admits to quite liking it despite the fact.
"It's probably one of the more technical track we drive on over here and the curbs are certainly unique - so steep that bar a couple you don't really use them. It's also pretty hard to make a pass there, but overall I don't mind it."
After successfully trialing separate qualifying sessions on each day the organisers are continuing with the system this weekend with drivers practicing on Friday, then have the fist qualifying session, top ten shootout and first race of the weekend on Saturday and a second qualifying session and second race on Sunday.
There is then a gap of three weeks before the fourth points round of the 2009 championship series at Symmons Plains Raceway in Tasmania over the May 30-31 weekend.