Can SVG seal the deal at Pukekohe?
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Shane van Gisbergen in the box seat to secure a maiden Championship
This weekend's ITM Auckland SuperSprint could gain extra significance with the potential for Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen to seal a maiden Supercars Championship win.
‘SVG’ currently leads the standings over his Red Bull Racing Australia teammate Jamie Whincup by 148 points, with another 237 points separating Whincup and the third-placed Craig Lowndes.
With the Pukekohe event representing the penultimate round of the series, van Gisbergen could mathematically earn himself the title if he can trump Whincup by enough of a margin across the weekend's four quick-fire races.
A full 300 points will be on offer at the final round of the series at the Sydney 500 in Homebush, meaning van Gisbergen would need to claim 153 more points than Whincup at Pukekohe in order to capture a 301-point margin. Four race wins for van Gisbergen would only be sufficient if Whincup finishes outside the top 10 in each race — a tall expectation considering the six-time series champion has finished outside the top 10 only five times this year out of a possible 23 races.
However, it wouldn't be unprecedented. Whincup scored no points at New Zealand's Hamilton 400 street-circuit event in 2008, after a heavy crash early in the weekend meant he had to sit on the sidelines.
Of course, the narrative of van Gisbergen versus Whincup is one of many that will play out in the Supercars paddock over the Auckland SuperSprint weekend. Several pieces of the silly season puzzle are still waiting to be pressed into place with the likes of Garth Tander, and Erebus Motorsport, Gary Rogers Motorsport, and others still yet to solidify their packages for 2017.
Five other New Zealanders will also line up on home soil: former Pukekohe race winner Scott McLaughlin backed up by Fabian Coulthard, Chris Pither, and Andre Heimgartner.
The ITM Auckland SuperSprint kicks off this Friday, with the four Supercars Championship races spread over the weekend.