While Shane van Gisbergen is excited about next year’s shift to Triple Eight, he is focused on delivering the Championship trophy to his small tight-knit team TEKNO Autosports this season.
The 25-year old Kiwi featured on the Inside Supercars panel tonight with soon-to-be teammate Craig Lowndes, but when asked about next year, said he wasn’t looking that far ahead yet.
“Yes and no,” he said when asked whether he’s excited about the shift to the V8 Supercars powerhouse team for 2016 on Inside Supercars.
“I still feel like I’ve got a pretty good shot this year.
“We’ve just had a new car for the last round, it’s looking good for this year. Still pushing on, but next year’s exciting.”
Earlier this season Triple Eight announced it would expand to three cars to make way for van Gisbergen – alongside champions Whincup and Lowndes – who currently races a Triple Eight built customer car at TEKNO.
Van Gisbergen finished runner-up to Jamie Whincup in the Championship fight last year after a stellar run home, which saw him overtake Mark Winterbottom and Craig Lowndes at the final round for second.
This time around Winterbottom and Lowndes lead the points, with van Gisbergen fifth in the order and 225 points away from Winterbottom.
The last round in Darwin was a step up for the Darrell Lea STIX driver, who moved up from seventh to fifth in the Championship order, and put two shockers at Winton and Perth behind him. More importantly – he loved the racing.
“We had good speed and there was a lot of action in the races, it was pretty exciting to be a part of it,” he told v8supercars.com.au last week.
“I just enjoyed being able to race hard the whole time. We had good grip because of the surface and the car’s performing well, so everyone was enjoying the races I think. For me it was just fun and good points as well.”
The team debuted ‘Lola’ a new chassis for van Gisbergen in Darwin, which he felt was a better change than expected.
“It was quite surprising actually how different it was, for supposedly being the same,” he said of the new car.
“It was one round – whether we were in the setup window or not we’ll find out at Townsville – but the car seemed really good, really responsive to the changes and the changes inside the car as well.”
While he has been fast at the Townsville circuit in previous years, van Gisbergen is yet to join the very limited winners’ circle – Jamie Whincup, Garth Tander, Mark Winterbottom, Will Davison and James Courtney are the only drivers to have finished first at the hybrid street circuit.
“There’s guys there who, you’d almost say are the specialists at that track, the guys who, no matter what team they’re driving for have always been the guys to beat – so we’ll watch out for them,” van Gisbergen said.
“But I think we’ve been one of the fastest cars the last two years with TEKNO, so pretty sure we can be quick again. How we’ll go I’m not sure, but hopefully we will challenge them.”
Holden Racing Team has earned one-two finishes at the Townsville track the past two years and finished first and third, on the podium with van Gisbergen, at the Clipsal 500 street circuit earlier this year. But the Kiwi was unsure whether that form would continue.
“I dunno, they’re so up and down at the moment,” he said of the HRT.
“There’s different guys winning every week so I’ve just got no idea who’s going to be fast.
“That’s the most exciting thing about the racing at the moment – there’s so many quick cars. If you miss your setup by a little bit you’re only two or three tenths off but you’re outside the top 10.
“So it’s really exciting and that’s what makes it so tough – you have to prepare so well then you just have to go through the motions throughout the weekend to make sure you stay on top of it. If you want to qualify up the top every race it’s very tough to do at the moment.”
When shown footage of his exchange with Courtney at the Clipsal 500, where he let the #22 Commodore back by to redress a bump, he laughed he felt differently about the move after a clash between the two in Darwin.
He told v8supercars.com.au: “I think I’ve said enough – he’s driving different to what he did at Clipsal for sure.”
The Castrol EDGE Townsville 400 will be shown on Saturday and Sunday on Channel TEN, with coverage beginning at 12pm and races LIVE from 4.15pm EST each day.
FOX SPORTS 506 will show the weekend in full kicking off on Friday and including all three practice sessions from 7am, as well as the weekend’s qualifying and racing LIVE, starting at 7.30am on Saturday and 7.55am on Sunday.