Shane Van Gisbergen wanted to talk Kiwi camaraderie as his controversial switching of V8 SuperCars teams raised its head before the New Zealand round of the championship at Pukekohe this weekend.
Three of the four Kiwis involved from Friday fronted a New Zealand drivers press conference in Auckland today.
Van Gisbergen, Fabian Coulthard and Jonny Reid were there, with Scott McLaughlin missing through travel arrangements.
They have made a strong showing on the points table after the first two meetings, with McLaughlin (fifth), Coulthard (seventh) and Van Gisbergen (ninth).
Coutlhard has won two of the official five races and Van Gisbergen one.
There are still signs of angst among the contingent, with Coulthard not backing away from remarks he made about Van Gisbergen when talking about his rival’s unexpected move from Stone Brothers Racing to Tekno Autosports.
“It was how it went about,” Coulthard said, repeating allegations on Van Gisbergen’s unexpected U-turn.
They surfaced when Van Gisbergen surprisingly walked away from a new three-season deal with SBR late last year and “retired” from V8s, suggesting a lack of motivation.
He then shocked everyone again by signing up with a new team. That raised claims from SBR that Van Gisbergen’s new deal contravened the terms of his release.
There were even reports of a potential injunction to enforce a one-year, non-compete clause.
Van Gisbergen wanted none of that today.
“We are here to talk about the race weekend. It’s good that it’s at Pukekohe,” he said, cutting off the subject.
Coulthard gave signs that things were on the mend. “I’m glad that Shane is in the category; that’s good, it’s competitive. We still get on very well. That’s not going to change anything.”
Van Gisbergen preferred to talk on Kiwi success early in the season.
“It’s been good to see Fabian and young Scott as well be pretty competitive. The Kiwis will be well represented this weekend, which is pretty cool, so hopefully one of us can get on to the podium, if not bag a race,” he said.
“It’s only been a couple of races and a few of us have been quite competitive.
“I think the three of us are in the top 10, which is petty cool. We have to get Jonny up there as well.
“Hopefully we can stay there and move a bit further up.”
Coulthard echoed that, playing down any internal rivalry among the New Zealanders and instead revelling in the recent domination of the Australians.
“If we can’t win ourselves, we’d love to see another Kiwi win. I think it’s important for us four to go well, to have a New Zealand following,” he said.
“It’s just a shame we don’t have Murph [Greg Murphy] on board.” The Kiwi feel to the championship’s return to Pukekohe will be increased by the drivers racing for the Jason Richards Trophy, in memory of the Kiwi driver who died after a long battle with cancer last year.
Richards drove for Brad Jones Racing, where Coulthard is housed.
Coulthard said emotions were high and that would increase motivation for victory.
“Obviously Jason played a huge part at Brad Jones Racing, so it would be nice to take that back to Albury [team headquarters] for all the boys,” he said.
“It was supposed to be Jason’s birthday today. That’s a sad moment. Obviously he’s a huge loss to the SuperCars, but Jason is always riding on our car with the JR on the door.
“It’s an emotional time. He played a massive part in our team.”
The trophy will be unveiled on Friday.