Van Gisbergen to campaign #97 for title defence

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 10/12/2021
  • By James Pavey

The #1 is set to be another notable absentee on the 2022 Repco Supercars Championship grid.

Shane van Gisbergen romped to the 2021 title, which became official at last weekend’s Repco Bathurst 1000.

The Red Bull Ampol Racing driver won 14 races and clinched the title at the penultimate round at Sydney Motorsport Park.

Van Gisbergen has proudly campaigned the #97 since 2013, bar last weekend when he raced with the #888 in honour of departing boss Roland Dane.

Speaking after his title triumph in Sydney, van Gisbergen said the #97 will be here to stay next season.

“97, of course,” he said.

“I haven’t thought about it, but probably 97.”

The 2022 season would be the fifth in the last six years that the #1 won't feature on the grid.

The retiring Jamie Whincup, who won’t be on a full-time grid for the first time since 2004, last raced the #1 was raced in the championship.

Whincup won the 2017 title and carried the #1 in 2018, in a season won by Scott McLaughlin.

McLaughlin won a hat-trick of drivers' titles between 2018 and 2020, all while campaigning Dick Johnson Racing's iconic #17.

McLaughlin opted to keep the #17 after his 2018 title, and helped the number to two more championships in 2019 and 2020.

No Whincup, and no #1 in 2022

It was in 2016 that van Gisbergen won his first drivers’ title. For 2017, he became the first champion since Johnson in 1990 to keep his own number, rather than adopt the champion's #1.

The Kiwi’s affinity with the #97 stretches back to his youth, with van Gisbergen and father Robert both using the number in Speedway, Sprint Cars and quad biking.

Van Gisbergen adopted the #97 when he shifted to Tekno Autosports in 2013, and has raced with it ever since.

The 2021 season had already featured a 24-year first in McLaughlin’s absence; the last time a champion didn't feature on the following season's grid, with Craig Lowndes in 1997, the #1 didn't feature at all.

A champion refusing to run with the #1 is nothing new; Johnson campaigned the #17 after all five of his title wins.

Bob Jane did the same with his #7 and #76, as did Allan Moffat with the #43 in 1983.

Van Gisbergen raced with the famous #888 in Bathurst

Peter Brock also raced with the iconic #05 after his 1978 and 1980 championship wins.

The #1 is still the most successful number with regards to championships won, with the number carried to a record 14 titles.

However, the #1 was last raced to a championship in 2014 by Whincup, who raced with the #88 from 2006 to 2008, in 2011, in 2016 and 2017, and from 2019 to 2021.

Red Bull Ampol Racing has yet to confirm the number Broc Feeney, who carried the #888 to the Super2 title, will race with next season.

Will a new driver break through next season and open the Gen3 era with the #1 on the window?

The 13-event 2022 Repco Supercars Championship will commence in Newcastle next year. Tickets for the event are on sale now.

The 13-round draft calendar was released on Sunday.

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