Breaking records and overcoming injury: SVG's season so far
Repco Supercars Championship
By Charlie Bullis
The Repco Supercars Championship has seen seven rounds run and won for the 2021 season. With the mid-season break underway, it’s an appropriate time to review driver performances for the year so far.
Where better to begin with the driver leading the championship, Shane van Gisbergen.
With 11 wins, four podiums, and his 50th career victory clocked up in the first 19 races, the 2016 champion is the man to beat this year.
Only his Red Bull Ampol Racing teammate Jamie Whincup is close enough to contest him in the points, with van Gisbergen sitting 276 points clear of the seven-time champion.
But it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the 31-year-old Kiwi, Supercars.com takes a look at SVG’s 2021 season so far.
Came out swinging at the Repco Mount Panorama 500
The New Zealand driver came out swinging at the season opener, converting a second row start into his first win in Race 1 at hallowed Mount Panorama.
The Red Bull Ampol Racing ace bettered himself in the second outing at the mountain, grabbing his first pole of the season, going on to clean sweep the weekend.
Taking the championship lead and staking himself as a force to be reckoned with in 2021, there was already talk of this season belonging to van Gisbergen.
Broken but not beaten at Penrite Oil Sandown SuperSprint
A mountain bike accident just two weeks ahead of the Sandown SuperSprint saw van Gisbergen undergoing surgery to insert a plate into his shoulder.
Under a cloud of uncertainty of whether he would even be fit enough to drive with a broken collarbone, van Gisbergen worked to speed up his recovery process, undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy, supported by the team’s physiotherapist Chris Brady.
With many doubting he would make it through the first practice session let alone the entire weekend, the 31-year-old qualified 17th for Race 3 at the Penrite Oil Sandown SuperSprint.
In an extraordinary comeback, the #97 Holden driver charged from the ninth row to victory.
Continuing to defy the odds, van Gisbergen won Race 4 before scoring his 45th career win in Sunday afternoon’s Race 5, cruising to victory ahead of Erebus Motorsport rookie Brodie Kostecki in entirely wet conditions.
Unbelievably, scans after the event revealed he clean swept the race weekend while driving with three broken ribs.
Holding a five from five winning streak, SVG also enjoyed a 155-point lead over Whincup in the championship standings.
Streak breaks in Tasmania
The championship leader made it six wins from six, dominating the opening heat of the Tasmania SuperSprint at Symmons Plains.
Whincup denied SVG a historical winning streak in Race 7, with the Kiwi taking the second step of the podium for the first time in 2021.
Walkinshaw Andretti United driver Chaz Mostert was able to break through the hot Triple Eight duo in the Tassie finale for his first win since 2019, with van Gisbergen finishing sixth.
Testing times at The Bend
It was a mixed bag of results at The Bend, but even a bad day for SVG sees him win a couple of podiums to win the round.
Both Red Bull drivers complained of lack of speed as Mustangs dominated the weekend.
Changing up pit stop strategy wasn’t enough to get past Tickford Racing's Cameron Waters who outlasted the championship leader in the 24-lap Race 11, with the #6 Monster Energy Racing driver scoring his first win of the season.
Shaky start to dominant finish in the Valley
A shaky start to his Hidden Valley campaign saw van Gisbergen finish outside the top ten in Race 12 on Saturday.
A horror 30-second pit stop erased his race, handing Mostert his second win of the season.
Down but not out, the 2020 Bathurst 1000 winner claimed both race wins on Sunday, reaching a season-high 221 points lead and equalling his personal-best eight wins in a season.
Joining the 50 club in Townsville 500
A clean sweep of NTI Townsville 500 races brought van Gisbergen his half-century of Supercars race wins and further extended his championship lead.
Chasing down his Red Bull Ampol teammate twice to claim victory, the Kiwi made it 10 wins from 16 starts in 2021.
Van Gisbergen became the first driver since countryman Scott McLaughlin to claim 50 wins.
On the hunt in Townsville SuperSprint
The second weekend in North Queensland provided one of the most thrilling battles of the championship.
SVG’s WD-40 Townsville SuperSprint account opened with a controversial moment in the ARMOR ALL Top Ten Shootout when Zane Goddard made contact with the wall during his flying lap, meaning van Gisbergen struggled to warm up his tyres.
Netting sixth in qualifying for the opening sprint, an aggressive Kiwi landed a 15-second time penalty for pushing out Brodie Kostecki, seeing him finish sixth.
With a point to prove, the championship leader battled his way through Sunday, winning Race 18 after a thrilling exchange with Whincup.
Waters denied van Gisbergen the win in the Townsville finale with the pair locked in a nine-lap cat and mouse chase to remember.
The 2021 season will resume at Winton across October 2-3.