Triple Eight boss Roland Dane has confirmed new recruit Shane van Gisbergen will continue racing under his #97 next year.
The number has significance to the 26-year old racer, after it was used by both he and his father Robert, and will shift with him from TEKNO Autosports at the end of the 2015 season.
Dane confirmed that – if the team is unable to secure the #1 with Craig Lowndes still in the hunt for the Championship – the fan favourite would take #888 with him to the third Team Vortex car, with Jamie Whincup reverting back to the #88 in the Red Bull garage.
“Yes, Jamie has 88, Shane has 97 – we talked about that some time ago with TEKNO and V8 Supercars,” Dane told v8supercars.com.au.
New Zealander Van Gisbergen has raced under #97 since joining TEKNO in 2013 and was thrilled to retain the number that had personal significance to him.
“My first ever Speedway car was number 97,” van Gisbergen said.
“My dad raced a Sprint Car, and when I started racing quarter midgets our cars were painted the same, and his number was 97. So we had the cars painted the same, had the same number and that was how it all started.
“I was racing quad bikes as well with the same number and always … had that number.”
Joining V8 Supercars in 2008 with Stone Brothers Racing, van Gisbergen ran #9 for a number of years, but took the opportunity to switch back to ‘his’ number when shifting to TEKNO.
While car numbers are traditionally assigned to the Racing Entitlement Contract (REC) underpinning the entry, in recent years drivers have become more attached to their racing numbers, with applications to switch the numbers between teams made to V8 Supercars.
Arguably the most well-known connection in recent years was another Kiwi racer Greg Murphy, who became synonymous with #51.
It has also gone the other way, with Ford fans outraged to see the #18 on a Holden with Charlie Schwerkolt, after being a famous Dick Johnson Racing number for 25 years.
“With TEKNO this year and last year, they started making hats and shirts with a NASCAR-style 97 on it – I’ve seen a lot of them around this year and it’s a pretty cool thing,” van Gisbergen said.
“NASCAR do it well and Murphy did it well – everyone knows him by that number – so hopefully I can carry that number through the rest of my career. Unless of course I get number one.”
“The one thing that I really wanted was the 888 number – I’ve been carrying #888 for almost 10 years, and it’s nice to be able to carry that across,” he said as part of the Caltex Team Vortex announcement last month.
Will Davison joins TEKNO Autosports in van Gisbergen’s place next year – his number and sponsor is yet to be confirmed by the team. Funnily enough, he currently uses the #9 at Erebus Motorsport, with Stone Brothers Racing having morphed into the Betty Klimenko-owned Erebus team in 2013.