Newly crowned champion Shane van Gisbergen has enjoyed the shortest of Supercars honeymoons, coming under fire from his former would-be boss Betty Klimenko the day after winning his maiden title.
The trailblazing Klimenko was due to take on the contracted van Gisbergen at her Erebus team after assuming control in 2012 of the Stone Brothers Racing licence.
The New Zealander instead walked with a cloud hovering over his motivations and an ‘unconscionable conduct’ legal action settled out of court when he later joined Tekno Autosport.
Klimenko, who transformed the team by converting the Falcons to Mercedes-AMGs, arrived at the conclusion that the Aucklander couldn’t see past her gender.
“The crew was identical; the location was identical; the factory was identical. Even Ross Stone was still there,” Klimenko told Speedcafe.com.
“Not going into manufacturers, there was one thing (different) that was not about the car and that was me – a woman.
“I find that to be insulting. I thought it was very, very wrong and very sexist of him because that’s all I can think of.
“If he tells me it’s the manufacturer … no one knew what those cars were going to do. They could have gone out and smashed every record – he didn’t know. The only thing left was me.”
Reflecting on the saga last week, van Gisbergen said he had serious reservations about the new outfit, saying he “would have rather have stayed on the couch than raced for the new team”.
He rejected Klimenko’s claims outright as “completely false”.
“It was absolutely nothing to do with her. I just didn’t believe in the program and the way it was going to run,” he said.
“They (AMG) were sending everything over and no one was coming out (to Australia).
“In my eyes, it was a certainty (that it would struggle). It was definitely the right call (to leave).”
Klimenko made the allegations after reading the 27-year-old’s reflections on the controversial move, which she believed went to her character and reputation.
“I’m trying my hardest to integrate women into motorsport,” she said.
“I do talks. I do everything else and, to have this young man come along and ruin all that with one article, is just not right. You can’t do that.”
After running the elite German vehicles for three seasons without success, Klimenko’s team switched to Holdens in 2016, managing just one podium – in Sunday’s final race in Sydney.