NEW Supercars champion Shane Van Gisbergen has proved it’s better to burn out than to fade away, bringing down the curtain on the Sydney 500 era in a spectacular shroud of smoke.
As he became the first Kiwi champion since Jim Richards, Van Gisbergen rubber-stamped the final Sydney Olympic Park race with a race and title-winning burnout.
Van Gisbergen’s Red Bull Racing Australia (RBRA) stopped Garth Tander from sending the Holden Racing Team (HRT) out with a fairytale farewell by surviving a 74 lap war.
Holden’s latest champion won eight races and seven poles to become the best driver in the sport.
Van Gisbergen put his car into a wall after winning the final race of the year.
“It is pretty cool to be the champion,’’ Van Gisbergen, 28, said. “It was a great race with Garth and I am just so stoked to win the race and also to be lucky enough to win the championship.’’
Bursting onto the fulltime scene as a teenager in 2008 with Stone Brothers Racing, it took Van Gisbergen a decade to win his first title.
Richards, Robbie Francevic and now Van Gisbergen are the only Kiwis to have won Supercars championship prize.
And it did not come easy.
“The Gis’’ had to beat Jamie Whincup in a spectacular one-on-one year long fight in his first year in a Red Bull.
Six time champion Whincup finished second in the championship and Craig Lowndes narrowly missed out on scoring an unprecedented Triple Eight Race Engineering one-two-three title finish when he was pipped by Volvo’s Scott McLaughlin.
“It has been a fantastic year,’’ Van Gisbergen said. “Not just for me but for the team. It was a shame Craig couldn’t quite get there but a one-two is pretty awesome.
“It is all pretty amazing for my first year so I just have to thank everyone for helping me get
“It is a lifetime goal and to finally get here is quite special. I want to thank everyone again and hopefully I can come back and do it all again next year.’’
The last Sydney 500 was another drama-charged event with carnage and chaos providing a fitting season end.
Van Gisbergen almost had his hopes dashed when he collided with Garth Tander while exiting pit-lane and Dave Reynolds held off Whincup to score his first podium for Erebus.
“I just apologised to the boys because it took so long,’’ Reynolds said.
“I took my time but that was really cool to finish on the podium in this race. I really had to hold on and a lot of stuff going on. I ran out of water and boiled myself. I had no comms either but we got on the podium. This is just some of the better things that are left to come.’’
Next year’s decider will take place at the new Newcastle street track.