SHANE van Gisbergen has been Stone Brothers Racing’s form driver of 2012 – and has led the team back to the front this weekend at the Yas Marina Circuit, in Abu Dhabi.
After a tough season that has offered up inconsistent pace and results, all three SBR Fords finished in the top 10 in Races 24 and 25 yesterday, with the SP Tools-backed driver of car #9 leading the charge with a pair of third-place efforts.
Despite lacking the last few tenths of a second to challenge runaway winner Jamie Whincup and second-placed Will Davison, the 23-year-old Kiwi is beaming with pride at his team’s performance this weekend.
“It’s a great feeling to be standing on the podium and seeing the Kiwi flag after the year we have had as a team,” he says.
“The boys said it was pretty great to see a New Zealand flag up there – I said it would be better to hear the Anthem on Sunday!”
An altogether honest appraisal of his form has van Gisbergen quietly pleased with his two-race performance on Saturday.
“Both races were pretty boring for me, actually, but you can’t complain too much when you’re in third place behind those guys. I couldn’t quite get to them and if I did, it would have burned my tyres up doing it, so I sat back and looked after them.
“But just to be on their pace and only need to make small changes to get to them makes it a pretty good thing.”
Always aggressive, The Giz is unsurprisingly supportive of the sprint-race format implemented for this weekend’s return to Abu Dhabi for the V8 supercars pack.
“It’s awesome. I think the format was cool. You only had time for four or five laps and you had to pick your best three and the races, the different compounds – you need to go out with no feeling and go straight into the races and perform. It’s pretty exciting for a driver.
“I like it, definitely. It’s pure racing, really.. you go out and go as fast as you can and that’s it. The tyres go off and you hold on. It’s great!”
With a season that has fluctuated from substantial high points – sprint race wins at the Dick Smith Sandown 500 and at the Australian Grand Prix in March the obvious examples – and serious lows when the cars struggled for outright speed, SBR fans will be pleased to see their team back towards the front this weekend.
In their last few races as a Ford-supported team (SBR will switch to Erebus Racing-backed Mercedes Benz cars next year) the Kiwi star is hesitant to label this weekend’s performance as an all-out revival of the team just yet.
But he says things are improving.
“I don’t think it is (a revival). F1 tracks like here and at Melbourne we’re always strong. We were strong (at Albert Park) and had a win and it’s smooth tracks like this where we are strong.
“It’s tracks like Winton where we need to make improvements. It would be great to go there and see the same kind of performance we have had here – but we will see.”