With the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 less than a month away Kiwi V8 Supercar series star Shane van Gisbergen says the improved car speed seen at Sandown over the weekend could not have come at a better time.
After setting the third quickest time in qualifying on Saturday morning and he and endurance round co-driver Luke Youlden claiming
a win apiece in the two 20-lap qualifying races in the afternoon, the pair started Sunday’s Dick Smith Sandown 500km race from pole and ended up crossing the finish line fifth.
Though they were hoping for a better finish in the Sunday race van Gisbergen was happy, finally, to have some car speed.
The team hasnt had a pole position for such a long time it was great to start up the front this time. This was one weekend where we were fast and now we need to keep doing that every week,he said.
Youlden started the 500km race from pole, quickly retaking the lead after an opportunistic move by Greg Ritter and leading until his first pit stop.
Unfortunately he lost a number of places during the stop, finding himself back in fifth spot for his second stint.
“Im not quite sure how we dropped a few spots but I think,” he said, “that some of the other cars stopped early and obviously spent less time in the pits.
It was a little bit of a struggle from there and the car wasnt quite as good on the second set of tyres as the first. I pushed through but made one or two little mistakes which cost us another position or two. However, the boys just told me to bring it back in touch with the leaders and I did that.
When van Gisbergen got into the car he found himself in a three-way scrap for fifth position with Holden’s Garth Tander and Stone Brothers Racing teammate Tim Slade.
Try as he might he couldn’t find a clean way past Slade and even when the pair pitted at the same time Slade stayed in front. Eventually, however, van Gisbergen found Slade’s weak spot, finally getting past on lap 121 before quickly pulling away to try and close down Tander.
He got close but not close enough to pass and though frustrated that he and Youlden couldn’t quite match their Saturday pace and finishing positions van Gisbergen praised the role his co-driver played in the weekend’s results.
Luke did a pretty good job today but the faster cars that were coming though were pretty dominant and passed him in the stops. Luke didnt
quite have the speed because the balance in the car went away and the others pulled further ahead. He did a great job though all weekend and Im really happy with what he did.
When I jumped in the car wasnt too bad and we ended up fifth overall. It was the second highest points of the weekend so that was good, and we are competitive again.