Flashback: SVG's ecstasy and agony in Tassie

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 20/01/2021
  • By James Pavey

Shane van Gisbergen has become one of Triple Eight's greats, having won a Bathurst 1000 and drivers' title for the all-conquering Holden team.

Nearly five years ago, van Gisbergen entered the Triple Eight family and won the championship on his first attempt with the team.

It started swimmingly, with the Kiwi recording a third, fifth and 10th in Adelaide to leave the 2016 season opener just 25 points off the championship lead.

By Saturday afternoon at Symmons Plains, he loomed as the one to beat in 2016, which was proven when he clinched the title in Sydney at the end of the year.

However, no weekend offered such ecstasy and agony in equal measures like his maiden trip to Tasmania as a Triple Eight driver.

Leading late in Sunday afternoon’s Race 5, van Gisbergen had enjoyed an almost perfect weekend of speed and effort.

A day earlier, he claimed his first championship race win for Triple Eight, defeating team-mate Jamie Whincup to top spot.

Van Gisbergen started third behind pole man Mark Winterbottom and Craig Lowndes, with Whincup moving up to fifth before being the first driver to make his compulsory pit stop at the end of lap 4.

Whincup emerged ahead of van Gisbergen, Lowndes, Will Davison and Rick Kelly, with a slow stop dropping Winterbottom back before he went off the circuit to avoid Lowndes.

On lap 17, a racy van Gisbergen passed Whincup for the effective race lead and went on to take victory by nine tenths of a second.

To that point, life at Triple Eight couldn't have been going better for van Gisbergen. He was the new championship leader, he had Whincup on the defensive, and he also earned praise for clinching Holden's 500th Australian Touring Car Championship/Supercars win.

As Sunday rolled around, van Gisbergen had the momentum, and started second alongside Winterbottom for the longer 84-lap race following a penalty for fastest qualifier Davison.

When he stole the lead on the third lap, van Gisbergen was where he needed to be. Then, when the Safety Car was deployed to to retrieve Chris Pither's damaged car following a crash, the tables turned further once Whincup was forced to stack in the lane behind the #97.

While van Gisbergen emerged in the lead ahead of Winterbottom, Kelly, Lowndes and Chaz Mostert, Whincup had slumped to 13th place.

It got worse for the #88, with Whincup triggering a second Safety Car on lap 40 after he speared off into the the gravel trap at Turn 4.

All the while, Cameron Waters was suffering an engine issue with his Monster Energy Falcon. When it finally failed when he returned to the track, the complexion of the race changed again in a matter of seconds.

With oil strewn over the racing line heading to Turn 4, Whincup and Andre Heimgartner, immediately behind Waters, both went off the circuit. Heimgartner was beached, but Whincup managed to continue.

First on the scene, van Gisbergen slid on the oil. While the trailing Winterbottom bowled a wide and was able to race on, van Gisbergen was buried in the gravel with his car lodged against the barrier.

Eventual race winner Davison and Lowndes sailed through into the top two positions, while Winterbottom assumed third place.

Images of van Gisbergen trying desperately to remove his car from the gravel were desperate, and the Triple Eight pit wall grimaced in disappointment.

Such was his devastation, that an irate van Gisbergen refused to take questions from the media after the race.

Later, in quotes issued by the team, it seemed a simple case of a driver who "just mucked up".

"At the end, we had really great pace and pulled away, but I just mucked up at the hairpin where the oil was and I just couldn't stop and got stuck," van Gisbergen said.

"So, 150 points down the toilet really. We had fast cars all weekend, we were the quickest, it's a real shame that it ended that way."

He would go on to win seven more races in 2016 en route to the championship, ticking off a major career achievement just one year into his life with the Banyo squad.

However, the Tasmania failure stung, with van Gisbergen telling Supercars.com in the weeks after the incident that we was already working towards avoiding a repeat of the trauma.

But, in typical SVG style, he shrugged it off and looked ahead, a mode of thinking which has helped him became one of the category's best heading into 2021.

"I was a bit pissed, but it's happened," he said.

"You can look at it as many times as you want - which I have done - and now I'm just focused on what we're doing.

"The biggest thing for me is, I just go racing and focus on that race."

Supercars will return to the Apple Isle for the Tasmania SuperSprint across April 10-11. Tickets are on sale now.

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