With the Supercars season set to start in Adelaide this week, the Kiwi star looks back at last season – and forwards with this year’s ‘beautiful’ new ZB.
By Matthew Clayton for redbull.com
Give Shane van Gisbergen a choice between driving and talking about driving, and the former wins almost all of the time. Notice we said ‘almost’: SVG typically isn’t one to use 100 words when 10 will suffice, but the development of the all-new ZB Commodore that the Red Bull Holden Racing Team will campaign in this year’s Supercars championship has him keen to talk. And talk.
With the 2018 season set to roar into action at the Adelaide 500 this weekend (Mar 1-4), it’s all about the first 250-kilometre hit-out of the campaign on the city streets of the South Australian capital on Saturday. But for SVG, it’s the work that’s been undertaken by Triple Eight Race Engineering in the lead-up that has him gushing to give platitudes.
“The build of the new car and being in the workshop in January with all that was going on, it’s been bloody impressive to see,” he says.
“The cars, they just look beautiful in the new style and shape with all of the new parts, and the guys have done an amazing job. We had our shakedown at QR (Queensland Raceway), and these absolutely perfect-looking cars were lined up there in the pit lane waiting for Jamie (Whincup), Craig (Lowndes) and myself … you know how much work went into them even being there for that day, and it’s a pretty cool feeling being trusted to take them out for those first laps.
“We always talk about the next thing, but times like that … you have to take a second to really appreciate those moments.”
While we’ve got SVG in a nostalgic mood, how does he – with the benefit of time – remember his 2017 season, a year where he won five races and finished on the podium 12 times in 26 starts, but couldn’t replicate his championship success from 2016? Last year couldn’t have started out much better – two wins from two in Adelaide, and a third win on the bounce when the first race at Symmons Plains was cut short because of a massive accident that wiped out half the field soon after the start – but in the end, some ill-timed luck, a tyre drama or two and – he admits it – some errors saw SVG finish fourth overall.
“We still won a lot of races, so I don’t look back at 2017 as being a bad year, but we could have done better,” he concedes.
“When you’re pushing the limits and trying a lot of things … that was probably our undoing as a driver and an engineer, that we pushed so hard that we found the limit too many times.
“I’m not someone who hangs onto seasons good or bad after they’ve finished, but I always make sure I learn from it and turn up next time making sure I don’t make the same mistake twice. To do that you have to look at your mistakes and analyse them. You need to be hard on yourself, there’s no way you can improve if you aren’t.
“Last year, we had a fair bit to take out of it that we needed to improve on. So it was a good year, but we had a lot of negatives as well.”
Van Gisbergen has scratched his racing itch by doing some drifting back home in NZ over the break, but it’s Adelaide that he has his sights set on. Newcastle last November was too long ago for the 28-year-old, and while he admits that some more time to bed in the ZB would be welcome – “everyone is always a bit undercooked for Adelaide, so we’ll deal with whatever comes our way there” – lights out on Saturday can’t come soon enough.
“I’m just ready to go racing now,” he says.
“I’m sure everyone in the team would like more hours in the day with how busy it has been and how the prep has gone – there’s been a lot going on and a lot still to do. But everyone is excited to get to the first race, get the season started and a new story started, and get in a rhythm with everything.”
And what is he most looking forward to in a Supercars season where the sport will compete for championship points at the Australian Grand Prix for the first time, has a new circuit in Tailem Bend coming on-stream, and where SVG will drive in the enduros with long-time Kiwi peer Earl Bamber? None of it, but all of it.
“I don’t tend to look forward to any one thing, I like to be excited and motivated by everything,” he explains.
“So there’s a lot of cool stuff coming up, and this year is shaping up to be a really good one. The off-season is long enough, and I’m pretty happy it’s almost time to get going again.”