Team physio Chris Brady said he is "still learning" about the extent of Shane van Gisbergen’s rib bruising as the championship leader continues his brave return behind the wheel.
Van Gisbergen, who is recovering from surgery on a broken collarbone, finished eighth and fifth in the two practice sessions at the Penrite Oil Sandown SuperSprint.
Red Bull Ampol Racing physiotherapist and mindset mentor Brady said van Gisbergen, who suffered the injury in a mountain biking accident, said the Kiwi is performing above all expectations of his recovery.
However, amid one of of the most arduous weekends of the driver's career, Brady reiterated that the star driver is not above risk.
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"I was grumpy at him because I said our objective is to get through the weekend with risk minimisation," Brady told Supercars.com.
"He didn’t take any risks; it’s about mitigating our points loss at this point, because it’s a long championship, so we have a championship mindset.
"I got grumpy at him when I poked my head I the car, I told him he doesn’t need to be that good yet, but he said, 'I was just driving it round’.”
Van Gisbergen sent shockwaves down the pit lane, with the 31-year-old the pace-setter through the opening half of the first practice session.
He ended up eighth in the session, which was topped by teammate Jamie Whincup, before recording the fifth quickest time in Practice 2.
Brady, who has been with Triple Eight with over 15 years, has been at the forefront of van Gisbergen's recovery.
Speaking to Supercars.com following his first debrief with van Gisbergen after Practice 1, Brady said the driver's first words to him after leaving the car were, 'My ribs are really sore’.
Brady said the team is still learning how to effectively manage van Gisbergen's pain and balance the driver’s eagerness to attack the Sandown circuit, which is punctuated by aggressive kerbs.
"He said to us right from the outset, before he got in the car to [engineer David] Cauchi, ‘We are going to know by Turn 2 on the first lap, whether this is going to be doable’,” Brady explained.
"Which is why it was entertaining right at Turn 2, on his first lap, that he didn’t back off; he didn’t shy away from it, he went right over the kerb.
"The thing we are growing knowledge of, particularly about how it is going to affect him this weekend, is that he almost certainly bruised some of his ribs in the bike crash two weeks ago.
"Managing that will be just a big of a player as anything else.
"Our plan is: we need him to be on when he needs to be on in the car; when he is not in the car, our job is often really hard to come back down to being relaxed afterwards.
"His brain is amazing, he is really interesting as he doesn’t let anybody in, and he’s got this internal version of himself where he is incredibly self-managing.
"That is his big castle, and all he really needs is guards around the outside to make sure that he knows what’s coming.
"I totally get that what he is trying, especially this weekend, to do is something most people wouldn’t try to do. And so we all want to help nurture that process.”
ARMOR ALL Qualifying will commence at 1:45pm ahead of the 36-lap Race 3 at 4:45pm.
The Repco Supercars Championship field has returned to Victoria this weekend at the Penrite Oil Sandown SuperSprint. Tickets are on sale now.