TEKNO team boss Jonathon Webb has backed Shane van Gisbergen’s choice to redress a questionable pass on race leader James Courtney in Sunday’s mini-marathon at the Clipsal 500.
Opinion has been divided on whether van Gisbergen’s dive on the Holden Racing Team Commodore at turn nine with 20 laps to go in the 250km race would have been deemed legal, with a bump between the two mid-corner.
But the kiwi driver did not want to risk being penalised for the move – and with his Darrell Lea team in for a shot at the Championship after finishing second last year, Webb completely agreed it was better to be safe than sorry.
“Initially I thought the move was reasonably clean – but in saying that, with that contact in the middle of the corner it’s always iffy,” Webb told v8supercars.com.au.
“I think at the time he made the right decision – and that’s where Shane has matured a lot in the last 12 to 18 months.
“Not that long ago he would’ve crashed and bashed his way through, gone for the win and come away with a points penalty or something similar at the end of the weekend, which makes all that hard work a complete waste of time.
“So from my point of view I think it was the right decision at the time … there’s been plenty of comments from people around that he probably shouldn’t have, probably didn’t need to, but it’s been and gone now and we’ll move on.”
There has been a quiet confidence about TEKNO this season, after van Gisbergen snuck up into second in the Championship last year, when most focus was on bigger names Mark Winterbottom and Craig Lowndes, who lost out at the final round in Sydney.
This year, TEKNO’s focus is on winning the title, and Webb believes van Gisbergen’s caution around a potential penalty shows that his head is in the right place to challenge for the Championship. Both Webb and team manager Steve Hallam praised his maturity ahead of the 2015 season.
“We were still really happy with second place and good strong points coming out of the first weekend,” Webb said.
“We saw how close the championship was last year and a 20-point penalty now could mean the difference between first and second in the championship at the end of the season … we’re here to play the long game and push on.”
In the post-race press conference, van Gisbergen joked, “A younger Shane would have [stuck his nose in] and probably hit something” when talking about the closely fought battle with Courtney in the final stint.
“I had one good go at James where he locked the rears into turn nine, so I took the gap but I just got a bit of chatter and slid into him,” the 25-year old explained.
“I could’ve driven off but I thought I’d give it back and try and do it cleanly … It’s just years, I’ve just learnt – I’ve broken a few front bumpers off so I know when’s the right time to try and have a go.”
Van Gisbergen was on fresher tyres and pushed the Holden Racing Team driver right to the end of the 78-lap race – which he thoroughly enjoyed.
“Epic race,” the Darrell Lea driver said.
“It was really cool just pushing the whole way, we were sliding a lot. The last lap through turn eight was pretty awesome, I thought I was going to have a cheeky dive but he pulled away from me through there. Yeah, just awesome, really enjoyed it.”
The pass was under scrutiny on Tuesday night’s Inside Supercars, aired on FOX SPORTS 5, with eventual winner Courtney admitting he probably would have just pushed on if the shoe was on the other foot.
Courtney leads the 2015 V8 Supercars Championship after one round, with van Gisbergen fourth, 36 points behind.
The V8 Supercars take to the track in the Formula One Rolex Australian Grand Prix support races next week – last year van Gisbergen won three of the four Albert Park races.