Shane van Gisbergen: Bathurst will tell us if we're on top
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Shane van Gisbergen's Red Bull Holden Racing outfit has wrestled back the balance of power in the Supercars Championship from compatriot Scott McLaughlin and the Shell V-Power team.
The 29-year-old Van Gisbergen holds a 55-point lead in the championship battle heading into next weekend's Bathurst 1000 while his team has taken out the last five races in a row while McLaughlin's dominance has seemingly deserted him.
McLaughlin took control of the championship in round three at Tasmania and led all the way through until the Tailem Bend round last month. Van Gisbergen overtook the Ford driver on the Sunday before extending that lead at Sandown a fortnight ago.
But he isn't sure if the balance of power has moved considerably or if the sample size is just too small.
"At Bathurst last year Scotty was amazing there, on rails and set the record and was basically the fastest car by miles when it was dry.
"I think at Bathurst we will find out if we have made big gains on all types of track."
What is clear is that the Red Bull Holden has made massive gains over the last couple of months, particularly when it comes to one lap speed.
"Qualifying was certainly our weakness in the mid-part of the year," Van Gisbergen explained. "We have always had good racing speed and we were able to drive to the front but we were losing so many points to Scotty because he was always qualifying on the front row.
"That has been the biggest gain; finding some things to switch the tyre on I guess you would call it in qualifying.
"Certainly starting up front we have been able to race him from an equal start point."
All three cars in the Triple Eight stable [Van Gisbergen, Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes] have seen improved results of late.
"As a team we are working together closer than ever both in set-up and how we work together within sessions," the 2016 series champion said. "It has been really cool watching the whole team lift and get better and better and, as a result, we have chipped away at the championship because we were a long way behind Scotty and we have been getting closer and closer."
Van Gisbergen lines up with fellow New Zealander Earl Bamber in the three Pirtek Endurance Cup rounds at Sandown, Bathurst and the Gold Coast. The pair finished second at Sandown with Bamber credited for an impressive drive in his Supercars debut.
"It is hard when someone does all their racing overseas and you don't know how good they really are. He has won some massive races and world championships and he is a pretty accomplished driver."