Shane van Gisbergen proves he's a motorsport renaissance man with incredible NZGP win
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Shane van Gisbergen showed once again that he can seemingly drive anything, anywhere at the top level on Sunday by winning the 66th New Zealand Grand Prix - after starting at the back of the grid from pit lane.
Van Gisbergen accidentally set the fire extinguisher off in his car as the field set out on the formation lap prior to the fans' grid walk. That meant a hasty return to the pits to clean out the car, his overalls, his boots and a replacement extinguisher. When the race got under way he had to start from pit lane, at the back of the field.
The Safety Car when Peter Vodanovich stopped out on the track was a lucky break, but it was still a stellar drive.
After 10 laps van Gisbergen was inside the top 10, by the 15-lap mark he was in third and on the 19th lap he completed his drive through the field to take the lead. From there he continued to put in some of the weekend's fastest laps and he crossed the line after 28 laps of the 4km Hampton Downs international circuit to take victory by two seconds.
Van Gisbergen is also now the first driver to win all three races in a Castrol Toyota Racing Series weekend. He became the first driver to start a Grand Prix - and a TRS race - from the pit lane and win. All capped by trademark doughnuts on the warm-down lap.
"It didn't really get off to a good start when I pressed the fire extinguisher by mistake but the team were awesome getting me ready to go," he said afterwards. "The safety car was perfect and the car was really hooked up and absolutely awesome. I'm surprised it's all still there as it was a bit of a rough up going through the field.
"To get my name on that trophy is a pretty special thing. Looking at those names from the 1950s and 60s and some of my heroes too. I'm stoked."
Seventy nine-year-old-year Kenny Smith, also making history with his 50th NZ Grand Prix start, was on hand on the podium to present the Motor Cup Trophy.
André Heimgartner - another V8 Supercar driver - came home an impressive second after his best performance of the weekend. André raced with a heavily strapped left hand after heavy contact in the morning race.
Matthew Payne was another to excel. Having only just gained his circuit racing license for the TRS series, the accomplished karter - with Red Bull Junior Liam Lawson his radio contact throughout the weekend and the race - completed a stellar debut weekend to come home third in the Grand Prix.
Daniel Gaunt - a two-time winner of the race himself - charged into the lead at the start and controlled much of the race until van Gisbergen arrived on his tail.
One of the pre-race favourites, Chris van der Drift was attempting to pass for the lead when he clipped the back of Gaunt’s car and damaged his front wing. He headed for the pits almost exactly as Vodanovich pulled up and managed to get the nose changed and get underway. Another spectacular drive through the field brought him to fifth place at the end although a post race penalty for a driving infringement dropped him to 12th in the final results.
A gutsy Smith made it home to cheers from the crowd as big as those for the winner.
No other driver has or is ever likely to match Smith’s New Zealand Grand Prix record: over 50 races he's gone up against everybody from Moss and McLaren to Norris and Tsunoda.
66th NEW ZEALAND GRAND PRIX RESULT
- Shane van Gisbergen
- André Heimgartner
- Matthew Payne
- Kaleb Ngatoa
- Damon Leitch
- Brendon Leitch
- Daniel Gaunt
- Billy Frazer
- Greg Murphy
- Conrad Clark
- Tom Alexander
- Chris van der Drift
- Chris Vlok
- Joshua Bethune
- Kenny Smith