Shane van Gisbergen wins 2016 Supercars title
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Shane van Gisbergen creates history with Supercars Championship win
Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen has won the 2016 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship title, after taking a third and a first in the final two races of the season at the Coates Hire Sydney 500.
The historic win is the first for a New Zealander since Jim Richards' win in 1991 during the Group A era for Gibson Motorsport.
"It's a pretty awesome feeling. To get back to the pits after the race to see my father, mum and the rest of the team so stoked was really great,” said van Gisbergen.
"It's been a pretty awesome few years in the series and now to finally be champion of your sport is achieving a life long goal.
"Since Bathurst I knew it was a long shot and we gave it all we had. He deserves it more than anyone as we got beaten over the year."
Van Gisbergen's Supercars career has spanned 10 years, across four different teams.
Debuting part-way through the 2007 season with Team Kiwi Racing, the teenager immediately impressed with a stellar performance in rain-sodden conditions.
By the next season he would be racing for title-winning team Stone Brothers Racing. Alongside team owners Ross and Jimmy Stone, the Kiwi was honed into a regular front runner — underlined by a maiden race win in front of a home crowd at the 2011 Hamilton 400.
However at the end of the 2012 season van Gisbergen found himself in the center of controversy; exiting the SBR team under questioned circumstances, only to secure a deal to race at the emerging Tekno Autosports squad for 2013.
However, the Kiwi bounced back to enjoy what at the time was his most fruitful relationship to date. Racing under the likes of Steve Hallam, van Gisbergen would win nine races over the next three seasons.
It was enough success to receive a call up from the most dominant team in the sport; Triple Eight Race Engineering.
Expanding to a three-car team for this season to accommodate van Gisbergen alongside Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes, there was skepticism of whether the trio would be able to snatch back the series crown from Prodrive Racing Australia under their new framework.
Speculators also questioned whether van Gisbergen and Whincup would mingle well as teammates — or whether their respective pace would be a recipe for disaster later in the season.
Whincup had the upper hand initially, winning on the streets of Adelaide. Van Gisbergen got one back on him by winning the first race at round two in Tasmania, but the Kiwi wouldn't build momentum with his team and car until round six of the season at Darwin's Hidden Valley.
From Darwin all the way to the final round of the season in Sydney, van Gisbergen scooped seven wins and eight podiums out of a potential 18 races.
In doing so, he would win the Pirtek Enduro Cup alongside Frenchman Alex Premat, the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy at Pukekohe, and ultimately a maiden championship title — sealing the win after yesterday's podium placing.
"It's still sinking in, but I know I've grown as driver the last three years and have a lot more experience now,” said van Gisbergen after officially being crowned champion.
"You go through a lot of stuff in life and I now feel a lot more comfortable with everything. The last two teams I've been with, and all the overseas experience, has made me better and that's the reason we got there [winning the title].
"The family for me is No1. Mum and dad did so much for me growing up to allow me to go racing. For them to be here and to see them so soon after the race is pretty special.
"You could see how much it meant for them and it's so cool that they have been along for the ride. It's not just me out there, it's the family and the race team."
"I feel really proud as a parent that Shane has won a Supercars championship. He has worked really hard for it, but there is one regret I have - his sister Lauren wasn't here to see him do it," added Robert van Gisbergen.
"As well as being father and son, we're also mates and hope to be always. That's why at the start of that race on Saturday, my heart was through the roof.
"When the [pit lane] penalty [which dropped him back to 18th] came, people were telling me that a least he has Sunday's race.
"That's not the way he works and he wasn't going to give up. He likes a chase and, holy moly, when he finished third, I just thought 'that's my son'!"