Rising star Shane van Gisbergen takes the biggest step of his fledgling motor racing career when he drives the Team, Kiwi Racing Ford Falcon V8 Supercar at Oran Park, Sydney, in three weeks’ time.
The 18-year-old automotive engineering student at MIT in South Auckland has landed the drive with the reborn TKR outfit.
He’ll contest the rest of the 2007 series and has a contract to do the 2008 championship.
And in not just any car. The teenaged racing sensation will be in a Stone Brothers Racing Falcon, either the car raced by James Courtney or by Russell Ingall in the races so far this year.
TKR boss David John announced van Gisbergen’s signing last week, and also announced that the outfit has finalised a technical partnership with Stone Brothers Racing after weeks of discussions with various other teams and weighing up the options.
Under the agreement, SBR has been contracted to provide technical support to TKR, as well as supply engines for the Team Kiwi Ford, taking the number of V8 main-game cars using SBR engines to eight.
“We can’t wait to get the TKR all-black machine back on the grid for our many fans, our sponsors and our team,” John said.
“The criticism and the malicious reports over the last few weeks have been hard to take but we’ve remained focused on getting back on the track and let the side show just run its course.
“Our focus has been to ensure we provide our sponsors and New Zealand public with the most competitive package we could with for the Australian V8 Supercar Championship and that’s part of the reason why we decided to go with the Stone Brothers Racing option.”
He said van Gisbergen has tested in a V8 Supercar on three previous occasions and “has shown the ability to be fast and smooth at the same time.”
Van Gisbergen called the signing “a dream come true for me. I know I still have a lot to learn both on and off the racetrack but that’s the challenge ahead for me and I look forward to repaying everyone who has shown faith in providing me with this opportunity.
“I’m also indebted for the support from the Giltrap Motor Group who gave me the chance to compete in the Toyota Racing Series, which has been the springboard to this chance with Team Kiwi Racing in V8 Supercars.”
He admits it will be a tough learning curve, starting mid-season as a rookie in such a competitive series.
He has some experience of Oran Park, having tested a Formula Ford there.
Shane says there was never any doubt in his mind about moving to V8 Supercars. It’s what he has always wanted to race, despite having a promising career and international opportunities in open-wheeler single seater racing.
When he lines up at Oran Park, van Gisbergen will be driving a race car with a number other than #97 for the first time in his career.
The Falcon will carry the familiar #021, and van Gisbergen’s father Robert says the #97 number wasn’t an option.
“It’s simply not available.”
Shane says he adopted the number for his racing quad bikes, Quarter Midgets and open-wheeled circuit racing cars because it was the number his dad used to run on his speedway Sprint Car.
Van Gisbergen will have a rookie test day in the TKR All Black V8 Supercar before he heads to the Oran Park round of the Australian V8 Supercar Championship in Sydney on August 17-19.
See next week’s Auto Trader for an in-depth story and interview with Shave van Gisbergen.