Following Shane VanGisbergen’s shock decision to quit V8 Supercars last year, with two pole positions and arace win at the Clipsal 500 – as well as a standout victory at the non-championshipAustralian Grand Prix – the flying Kiwi has shown he is a force to be reckonedwith in 2013.
TEKNO Autosports driverand owner Jonathon Webb posted two top 10 results in Adelaide, so the pair sitwithin the top 10 in the championship coming into this weekend’s Tasmania Microsoft Office 365 at Symmons Plains.
Both are confident theycan build on the Queensland team’s solid start to the season and consistentlychallenge at the head of the field.
Webb and Van Gisbergen satdown with V8 Supercars to talk about their aspirations for the season, rivalsand V8 Supercars overseas.
Is this thebreakthrough year for the team?
JW: I hope so, but it’sstill a long way ahead. It’s certainly started off well and if we continue theway we’ve started then quite possibly it is.
SVG: I think last year wasthe breakthrough year for TEKNO. To get a podium at the end of last year, thespeed was really coming on and I think last year they really showed they coulddo it. So for me that was a big thing and this year it was the first win forthe team and that was awesome as well. Improvement is always a good thing.
How satisfying wasClipsal for you both and for the team?
SVG: It was awesome. Theoff-season was a bit of a mixed bag and the few weeks before Clipsal we werereally pushing hard with the test days and the preparation. Probably the mostsatisfying was coming in and seeing most of the guys who really didn’t have aday off over Christmas because they worked so hard getting the new cars going.To see the smiles on their faces and seeing how stoked they were, was a prettycool feeling because they worked so hard to get the car going. And also we hadthe pole on Saturday and a DNF (did not finish) so it was a pretty good way tobounce back.
JW: It was a great startto the year. From my point of view it’s much the same. It’s obviously greatpersonally to have the results but from my side it’s the guys who put in thehard work and the long hours and don’t have a Christmas break. To see wheretheir hard work has gone and to pay them as best we can in the results – andfor me as a team owner pole position and a race win right off the bat – wasjust sensational.
What are yourexpectations for the season?
JW: For me I think we definitely need to be inthe top 10 every single race, but pushing on that I would like to see myselfpersonally in the top five on a more-than-not regular basis as well.
SVG: I want to try to keepa bad day as a top five result. You’ve got to try to keep in that area and onyour good days challenge for a podium or even better. But consistently scoringpoints is the way you’re going to win a championship.
Do you think the team is still punching above itsweight or are you where you expect to be?
JW: We sort of did ourdues last year and brought on the speed. We were sort of punching above ourweight at the end of last year but I think now we have earned our spot andwe’re just pushing along at where we should be.
SVG: I agree. I thinkwe’re where we should be and now it’s time to start getting the results.
Who do you see as your closest rival on the trackthis year?
SVG: Red Bull arethe ones who are going to keep pushing and improving, but there are probablythree main teams – Red Bull, Brad Jones Racing and Garry Rogers Motorsport –who are the top teams at the moment.
JW: I think the same. It’sundoubtedly always going to be Red Bull. They’re always going to push theenvelope and continue to push more and more. They’ll obviously be the stiffestcompetition but by far and away they definitely not going to be the only oneswho’ll be pushing hard.
Like Shane said, there area couple of other guys there. Whether they can do it consistently over thewhole season, only time will tell.
Is it a realistic expectation to consistently takeon Red Bull?
JW: Yeah. I think we haveshown that off the bat we can do it. We’re going to continue to push as a teamand evolve as a team – we’re not just going to sit back and be happy to finishsecond. I know that’s why we’ve built the team, pushed hard and brought Shaneon so now it’s time to beat them all.
SVG: I think it isrealistic but then again we’ve only really had two races but if we can keep onpushing them I think it will be pretty good. But at the moment we’ve beenmatching them in qualifying and at races so it’s been a pretty good start.
You have the same equipment as RedBull so does that put more pressure on you?
JW: No I don’t think soand particularly not the fact they’re all brand new cars. They’re learning justas much as we are and I think if anything it means that we don’t have any excuse– there’s no reason we shouldn’t be beating them. We know we’ve got the sameequipment so we’ve just got to do what we do as Tekno and stay in front ofthem.
SVG: I agree we’re in thesame sort of stuff but we’re all learning together I suppose. But for me you’vejust got to keep looking at data and improving as a driver so you can keeppushing and raising your level to the level of Lowndes and Whincup.
With four long distance rounds in Tasmania, NewZealand, Perth and then Austin, Texas coming up how important will these racesbe to set you up for the remainder of the season?
JW: All the races aremassively important, particularly early in the season. As I found last year Ihad a pretty slow start and all you’re doing is playing catch-up for the restof the season. So it’s really important just to maximise the points – just tofinish clean, stay out of trouble and come home in that top group and keepcollecting points because a DNF hurts massively in this category.
SVG: Yeah definitely, youjust got to keep scoring points … Consistency is the key and keeping the carstraight because there’s not much turnaround between each round. It’s better tokeep a straight car so the guys can concentrate on development instead offixing them.
What are you most looking forward to away from thetrack when the series heads to the US for the first time next month?
JW: I’ll be spending acouple of weeks in the States so I’ll be looking forward to having a bit of abreak and seeing some of the rest of the world while we’re over that way.Generally you’re straight over, four days at the track and turn around and comeback. So I’m going to try to enjoy it a little bit more this time and see a bitmore of the world as we go.
SVG: I won’t get much ofchance because I arrive on the Wednesday and then I’m straight back because I’mracing in New Zealand the weekend after. But I’m looking forward to spending acouple of days in Texas so I’ll buy a cowboy hat and see what happens aroundthere.
Jonathon, will yoube checking out any of the American motorsport while you’re there?
JW: Well actually that’swhy I’m staying on after. I want to go to one of NASCAR events so there’sCharlotte and also the Indy 500 is on that weekend as well. I don’t know if I’mgoing to able to get to both of them but I definitely want to get to at leastone – I think that will be a highlight of the trip.
Are you a littlebit jealous Shane?
SVG: Yeah, I do enjoy my NASCARso I would have liked to have fit in a round. But that’s alright – there’salways next year.
Would NASCAR everbe an ambition, to race over there like Marcos Ambrose?
SVG: I’ve no ambition toactually go and race there but try to watch all the races I can. I definitelyhave a go but I don’t think I’d do it as a career.