Kiwi Supercars star Shane Van Gisbergen highlights a late race fight in Sydney with teammate and championship leader Jamie Whincup as proof the two can fight for the title without conflict.
The two Red Bull Racing Holden drivers, who head into this weekend’s Sandown 500 first and second in the championship standings, scrapped aggressively with each other for the win over the final 10 laps in the Saturday race at Sydney Motorsport Park last month. Neither driver backed down but nor did they over-step what constitutes good, hard racing. The end result was a one-two finish for the team and highly entertaining viewing for spectators.
Defending series champion Mark Winterbottom, who is currently fourth in the standings, has been quick to point out that the two Red Bull teammates will eventually have to fight each other if they want to be crowned champion in 2016.
But the 27-year-old Van Gisbergen says the pair’s performance in Sydney highlights how they can race hard without taking each other out.
“Mark is just trying to play mind games or something but I don’t really read into that shit,” Van Gisbergen tells herald.co.nz. “I was beside him when he said it but just laughing at him.
“We race good Jamie and I. We have to work together and we have done that quite well.
“For us to be racing each other is a good problem to have.
“To have the top three cars in the championship is a testament to the team and us working together. Yup, we will have to race each other at the end of the year but we know the rules of engagement.”
Team principal Roland Dane is renowned for his hard-line stance on inter-team rivalry and has managed a very settled team for a number of years with Whincup and fellow stablemate Craig Lowndes rarely having problems racing each other, often at the front of the field.
Van Gisbergen says Dane makes it clear what is acceptable and what isn’t and it isn’t difficult to figure out where the line is.
“We know what is expected of us and how to race hard on the track. We raced like that last time out at Sydney Motorsport Park. It was a great battle – it was tight but we were both stoked at the end of it.
“I was stoked on the Sunday that he got his 100th career win.”
Van Gisbergen has more race wins that Whincup so far but has also made a couple of errors that have hurt his points-scoring haul. The Kiwi admits he is still chasing the six-time champion when it comes to driving for a title.
“He has got the experience. You can see where that experience shines through but I am getting closer and closer.
“We can’t really think about the championship until after the Gold Coast. Three good races in the enduros and then we will fight.”
Van Gisbergen has enjoyed a stellar year so far – he has more race wins in the Supercars championship than any other and heads into the endurance part of the season in a solid second place. He has balanced his work in Australia with his drive for the factory McLaren team in sports car racing.
“It has been a great year,” the Auckland-born product says. “McLaren has gone well as well. We are leading the championship there but unfortunately I can’t go to the last round so hopefully my teammates can win it.
“It has been a good year with some good cars I’ve been driving so I’m loving it.”