TEKNO Autosports team boss Jonathon Webb could not be happier about Shane van Gisbergen’s second place Championship finish.
While the spotlight was on big names Craig Lowndes and Mark Winterbottom, van Gisbergen flew under the radar in the lead-up to the weekend’s Sydney NRMA 500 – but on the track performed as his usual flamboyant self, excelling in wet conditions and pumping out fast laps.
Surpassing Winterbottom by just 13 points after the final race, van Gisbergen’s points haul also meant TEKNO was the highest positioned one-car outfit in the teams’ championship for the season, ahead of HHA Racing (Nick Percat) and The Bottle-O Racing (David Reynolds).
“I think we’re still trying to soak it all in – for us it’s huge, there’s no doubt about it,” Webb told v8supercars.com.au.
“The fact is, the only guy in front of us is a six-time champion, he is the guy to beat … We certainly had a run at it and are certainly happy with the way we finished off the year. I think it’s going to take a bit for this one to soak in.”
The second-place finish in the drivers’ Championship makes TEKNO the highest placed single car team since 1997, when Glenn Seton Racing won the title with Seton behind the wheel.
“To be able to do that is pretty special,” Webb said.
“We’re a one car team, we’ve had our battles here and there to try and get it off the ground and show we’re a force to be reckoned with as a team.”
He praised van Gisbergen’s driving this year, and the small group of guys in the crew, supporting the quick 25-year old Kiwi.
“The others dropped the ball and we grabbed it and ran with it,” Webb said.
“I think there’s a lot of people that didn’t expect us to get where we were – I think even us as a one car team were unsure if we had enough support with the one car, but I think we’ve done a good job this year.”
“The boys manage it well, Shane’s used his head – he really has driven fast and used his head a lot and it showed [over the weekend] he was in there for the Championship. Thankfully we were able to have a [race] win.”
Webb admitted he spent a lot of that final race away from the screen, nervous about the outcome once he realised how far up the team could finish.
Van Gisbergen ran second in what was the closing stages to Garth Tander, but a small slip up from Tander in the horrendous conditions saw the Kiwi take control of the lead moments before the Safety Car appeared on track and the race was eventually called.
“I was struggling to stand still in pit lane – not having control over it is pretty hard for me,” he said.
“I’ve been the driver, I’ve been the one who’s controlled if we make it or break it – not having that control is tough. But I’m dealing with it more and more all the time and I think it showed on the TV when I had a big cheer when Shane got to the front.
“I think of myself as generally pretty quiet and keep those feeling to myself but knowing what was coming and knowing the potential was it was hard to hold back.”
Webb himself played a part in the 2014 campaign as co-driver across the Pirtek Enduro Cup. The pair had a win on the Gold Coast, following the heartbreak of the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 where they were on for a win until van Gisbergen stalled in pit lane and was unable to restart the car. The day before, van Gisbergen drove his Commodore to ARMOR ALL Pole Position at Australia’s greatest race circuit.
Webb said he was still unsure where he would race as a co-driver next year.
“There’s a fair chance [of pairing with Shane], but to be honest I haven’t put any thought into it all,” he told v8supercars.com.au.
“Once I sit down in January or February I’ll worry about what I do.”
There have also been questions as to whether the team would expand to two cars for 2015, but Webb says deals discussed had not come to fruition.
“It’s not going to end our world either way – we know we could do one [car] right, we know we can do two right. But more importantly to me was to get that focus on car 97 with Shane and no matter what happened, again we could give him a Championship winning car. And at the moment that’s what we’ll be doing.”