Van Gisbergen’s charge unrewarded at Suzuka

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 24/06/2019
  • By Stefan Bartholomaeus

Shane van Gisbergen turned heads on his Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia debut at Japan’s famed Suzuka Circuit, before his co-driver struck trouble on the final lap.

The Kiwi starred in the Sunday contest, charging from 16th on the grid to be third when handing over to amateur co-driver Prince Jefri Ibrahim.

Remarkably, nine of those places had come in the first two corners of the 60-minute race.

Van Gisbergen took the rolling start on drivers’ left and, despite being five-wide at one point, elected to sweep around the outside into the Turn 1 and 2 complex.

Avoiding being taken out by two spinning cars ahead, van Gisbergen emerged seventh, and progressed further to fifth before the pitstop cycle started, eventually pitting from third.

After two Safety Car periods, Prince Jefri Ibrahim ran ninth outright and fourth in Pro-Am entering the final lap, but spun out of the race at the fearsome 130R sweeper.

The dramatic Sunday followed a rather sedate Saturday, where the duo turned 17th on the grid into a 13th-place finish, sixth in Pro-Am.

“It’s disappointing not to walk away with a good result [on Sunday] after a reasonable Saturday but we did have a great race,” said Triple Eight owner Roland Dane.

“Shane drove a blinding first lap and then went on picking off cars through to his stop.

“Iman (Prince Jefri) jumped in and was straight up to speed only for Safety Cars to interrupt the flow of the race.

“He was on the pace in P4 in Pro-Am with only a couple of corners to go when he had a big ‘off’ at the infamous 130R whilst pushing to take third. He was having a real go!

“We’re all proud of the progress he made this weekend at one of the most difficult and challenging tracks in the world and overall, we once again had the fastest car in race trim.”

Van Gisbergen was disappointed the #888 Mercedes had to start both races from so far back, but said it provided an opportunity to "have some fun".

"For qualifying we just missed it for both of us as we should have both improved instead of staying at the same times that we had been doing so that was a little bit of a disappointment," he said.   

"Overall, we went well and made improvement as we both started in similar positions for the races. 

"There were some good opportunities to have some fun coming through the field during the race but in the end, we had some unfortunate events that caused us to drop a lot of positions in the standings.”

Van Gisbergen’s fellow Supercars regular Andre Heimgartner picked up a pair of fourths in the HubAuto Ferrari he shared with Japan’s Yuya Sakamoto.

Sakamoto had been battling for the lead in the Sunday race when he ran through the final chicane, dropping to fourth.

Heimgartner and van Gisbergen will miss the next round of the season at Fuji, Japan on July 6-7, due to its clash with the Watpac Townsville 400.

Both are expected to contest the final two rounds, held at the Korea International Circuit on August 3-4 and Shanghai International Circuit on September 27-28.

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