New challenge for Supercars champ

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 13/03/2017
  • By Stefan Bartholomaeus

Red Bull Holden Racing Team star Shane van Gisbergen is today headed to the United States as he continues his rapid-fire start to the 2017 racing season.

The reigning Virgin Australia Supercars champion will this weekend make his debut in the famed Sebring 12 Hour, driving a Mercedes-AMG for WeatherTech Racing.

It will be van Gisbergen’s fourth big race in less than two months following appearances in the Daytona 24 Hour, Bathurst 12 Hour and Clipsal 500 Adelaide.

The reigning Blancpain Endurance Series champion in Europe, van Gisbergen’s three-event 2017 US sojourn will conclude with the Watkins Glen 6 Hour in July.

“It’s always good to experience a new track and a different style of racing,” van Gisbergen told of the Sebring 12 Hour, which was first held in 1952.

“Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do the pre-event test, but I’ve done a lot of laps on iRacing and studied a lot of onboard videos and will watch last year’s race on the way over.

“It looks crazy with the amount of bumps and the surface type. It'll be a new challenge that's for sure.

"We’ll see what it really looks like when we get there and hopefully get up to speed as quick as we can.”

Van Gisbergen has frequently spoken about the advantages of combining GT races with his Supercars commitments, especially early in the season.

With two big events already under his belt the Kiwi was in blistering form at the Clipsal 500, sweeping both ARMOR ALL qualifying sessions, Top 10 Shootouts and races in Adelaide.

While a fleet of Supercars drivers tackled the Bathurst 12 Hour, van Gisbergen says he’s surprised not to see more racing internationally in GT3 cars.

“All of the guys that stood out at Bathurst apart from Toni (Vilander, Ferrari factory driver) were Supercars drivers,” he said.

“Chaz (Mostert), (Mark) Winterbottom, Ash Walsh… they were all very quick which really shows how high the level is in our series.

“There are a lot of drivers in Australia that could go far if they got the opportunity.

“I’m not sure why others haven’t done what I have, but maybe there will be more in the future.”

Conversely, van Gisbergen says that he’s often approached by drivers in the US and Europe about getting a chance in a Supercar.

“All of the drivers talk to me about it (Supercars) and ask questions,” he said.

“We’re used to it, but they can’t believe how close and competitive it is.

“They all want to come and race them, but it’s so hard to get an opportunity.

“It’s a big risk (to sign an international for the Pirtek Enduro Cup) if they don’t have experience with the cars.”

Van Gisbergen is expected to travel straight from the US to the next Supercars event at Albert Park, for which practice commences on Thursday, March 23.

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