After a stellar first half of the season where he and the SP Tools-backed Stone Brothers Racing Ford Falcon have been one of the front-running combinations, young Kiwi ace Shane van Gisbergen heads into the second part of the 2010 Australian V8 Supercar championship series in good shape
The 21-year-old goes into this weekend's L&H 500 at Phillip Island in fourth place in the overall series points standings with just 25 points between himself and third placed Ford Performance Racing Falcon driver Mark Winterbottom.
Though there has been an unprecedented two-month 'mid-season' break between the last sprint and this weekend's first 'enduro' round, van Gisbergen has been working hard on his fitness and reckons the break - though long - was not necessarily a bad thing.
"Early on this year it was mainly week on, week off which made it feel like we were always in the car - so it's been good to have some time off for a change. That said it hasn't all been fun and games, I've done a lot of work on my fitness out of the car both in the gym and on the bike."
After pairing up with Jonathan Webb for the inaugural L&H 500 at Phillip Island in 2008, and Alex Davison in 2009, van Gisbergen is this year partnered with fellow Kiwi John McIntyre.
McIntyre shared a Stone Brothers Racing Falcon with one of his other compatriots, Daniel Gaunt, last year and says he is 'honored' to be given the opportunity to share van Gisbergen's #9 SP Tools Falcon this time round.
"To be in my second year with the team and in their lead car with Shane is a proud achievement," he said this week.
As far as form goes Stone Brothers Racing's endurance race combinations have always been ones to watch, both at Phillip Island, and Bathurst.
In 2008 van Gisbergen and co-driver Jonathan Webb finished 10th in the inaugural L&H 500 having been as high as first on the road - with van Gisbergen at the wheel - when it rained. Then in 2009, when he shared the team's lead car with regular teammate Alex Davison, the pair again crossed the finish line tenth after a wheel problem slowed Davison when he was running fourth.
This weekend's meeting at the high-speed Phillip Island circuit south of Melbourne is the first of three big endurance (two-driver) meetings with the annual Supercheap 1000km race at Bathurst and Armor All Gold Coast 600 on the Gold Coast following in October.
This weekend at Phillip Island there are practice sessions today (Friday) and early on Saturday morning before qualifying sessions for each driver later in the morning and 14 lap/60kms races for each driver on Saturday afternoon.
With no Top Ten Shootout this weekend, the grid for Sunday's 113 lap endurance race will be formed by combining the points earned by each driver in the two Saturday races. 2010 V8 Supercar Series, points after Rnd 9 of 15
1. James Courtney 1947
2. Jamie Whincup 1827
3. Mark Winterbottom 1623
4. Shane Van Gisbergen (SP Tools SBR Ford Falcon) 1598
5. Garth Tander 1509
6. Craig Lowndes 1479
7. Lee Holdsworth 1398
8. Rick Kelly 1352
9. Michael Caruso 1249
10. Steven Johnson 1151
11. Paul Dumbrell 1131
12. Jason Richards 1098
13. Jonathon Webb 1011
14. Russell Ingall 971
15. Tim Slade 951
16. Will Davison 945
17. Todd Kelly 870
18. Tony D'Alberto 849
19. Jason Bright 845
20. Steve Richards 800