Former top race car engineer says Toyota Racing Series Rookie of the Year, Shane van Gisbergen, reminds him of the young Gilles Villeneuve for sheer talent and car control.
May 24, 2007, 5.30pm. Former top motor racing engineer Murray McLaren says he rates Toyota Racing Series (TRS) rookie sensation, Shane van Gisbergen, with some of the world’s greatest drivers, among them Canadian Gilles Villeneuve whose car control was legendary.
McLaren worked with the late Gilles Villeneuve in North America early in the driver’s career.
He says he’s reminded of Villeneuve every time he sees Van Gisbergen race.
"It may sound unbelievable to some, but in my opinion Shane is the only young driver I’ve seen in recent years who comes close to the raw young Gilles Villeneuve I first saw in 1977.
“(Shane) has the same 'I can drive anything/pass anywhere' attitude when he's in the car, yet when he's out of it he is this polite young kid.
“I also see a lot of a young Roberto Moreno (Brazilian who raced in New Zealand, in Formula 1, Champ Cars and the IRL) in Shane - very brave, very confident."
Villeneuve started his racing career on snowmobiles, and van Gisbergen also started on loose surfaces, on quad bikes and in speedway Quarter Midgets.
Van Gisbergen won the New Zealand Formula Ford championship at the age of 16, winning 12 of the 20 races.
In last season’s TRS he was Rookie of the Year, won the three-round International series-within-a-series and won the prestigious New Zealand Motor Cup trophy on his way to finishing runner-up in the series, behind teammate and defending champion Daniel Gaunt.
Leading NZ driver Ken Smith, who races in the TRS, says van Gisbergen has “a big future. Everything he jumps into he gets the best out of and I've never seen him give anything less than 100 percent."
Photo caption: Shane van Gisbergen racing in TRS last season. Photo by Fast Company/Graham Blow.