Cameron Waters believes he remains Shane van Gisbergen’s biggest threat in 2021 despite the latter’s sizeable points lead.
When the 2021 season resumes, Waters will look to cut into the 412-point deficit to runaway championship leader van Gisbergen.
Van Gisbergen has been the class of the field this season, winning 11 of 19 races.
At only one event in 2021 - in Tailem Bend - has van Gisbergen failed to win a race.
Only van Gisbergen, Waters and Chaz Mostert (two wins) have claimed two or more wins this season.
Beating van Gisbergen on track has proven a tough task in 2021 - just ask teammate Jamie Whincup.
Whincup is van Gisbergen’s closest challenger on the points table, but has been regularly outpaced and outsmarted by his teammate.
Notably, Whincup led the bulk of both races at the NTI Townsville 500, only for van Gisbergen to make late race-winning overtakes on both occasions.
Waters, meanwhile, has defeated van Gisbergen in combat twice - in the Townsville finale in July, and at The Bend Motorsport Park in May.
Waters, the architect of van Gisbergen’s closest defeats this season, said he can be the biggest pest to the Kiwi’s title charge.
"I think so," Waters said when asked if he think he is van Gisbergen’s biggest threat.
"We’ve had a bit of bad luck - we probably should be a little bit further up the order.
"We’ve had a couple of bad rounds from genuine pace, but we’ve had a lot of rounds where we’ve been able to go head-to-head with Shane.
"I’ve had some pretty cool battles with Shane this year - I haven’t really seen anyone else do that yet."
Waters beat van Gisbergen to pole at the Bathurst season-opener, only for a power steering failure to gift the 2016 champion victory.
An accident in Race 10 at The Bend saw Waters, along with Mostert, record a DNF.
Van Gisbergen finished on the podium in both races, aiding his big margin over the Tickford driver.
However, prior to his upturn in form in Townsville, Waters’ greatest weakness was poor tyre life.
He failed to convert two Sunday poles in Tasmania to victory, and was lapped by van Gisbergen in first Townsville event.
The Ford team turned it around in a week, and Waters won two of the three races at the WD-40 Townsville SuperSprint.
It was the Race 19 performance, in which he kept van Gisbergen at bay, which proved to Waters that he can match the points leader - even if he doesn’t always win the battle.
"100 per cent, that’s why you do it," Waters said of the Race 19 battle.
"Those cool battles on track, and you want to come out on top.
"In saying that, when it is the other way, it’s still a lot of fun when you have a cool battle head-to-head and you don’t come out on top."
Waters cited Whincup’s DNF at last year’s Bathurst 1000 as to how the gap to van Gisbergen could close.
In 2020, Waters second overall behind Scott McLaughlin after Whincup crashed out early in the Great Race, which offers 300 points for the winner.
Critically, Waters knows he needs to be at the front at every event to capitalise should van Gisbergen slip up.
Given his consistency in Townsville, Waters believes he and Tickford are well-placed to pounce when the season resumes.
"Hopefully there are many more to come this year,” he said.
"We’re getting stronger and stronger.
"Battles like this are awesome, it’s what we do this job for, and it’s a lot of fun doing it.
"Hopefully we can stick it to them more often."