Motorsport: The V8s - one more time

By Eric Thompson

Shane van Gisbergen is quitting the V8s, but first he wants one more good finish so he can hold on to his fifth place in the series. Photo / Christine Cornege
Shane van Gisbergen is quitting the V8s, but first he wants one more good finish so he can hold on to his fifth place in the series. Photo / Christine Cornege

The streets of Homebush, Sydney, will boom with the sound of the V8 Supercars this weekend in what will be the last time we see the current cars race.

Next year, the series will feature the Car Of The Future, the next step in the evolution of the category. The current cars, and their upgrades, have been in service since the start of the series in 1997.

The COTF is a new race machine with a common chassis and controlled parts aimed at reducing the cost of going racing by about $300,000 a car.

The category will no longer be an exclusive Ford versus Holden battle, as it's been opened up to other manufacturers.

Nissan and AMG Mercedes have entered the fray for next year. Kelly Racing is building four Nissan Altimas, and Stone Brothers Racing has ditched Ford and is going with three AMG Mercedes E63s.

A change of make isn't the only thing happening at SBR. One of the best young prospects in V8 racing, New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen, is hanging up his V8 helmet.

He will leave the sport at the end of the weekend and return home.

But although the 23-year-old Kiwi is taking a break from racing, it doesn't mean he won't want to leave on a high. He's fifth in the championship and wants to make sure he stays there come Sunday afternoon.

"It was good to finally let everyone know [about leaving the sport] and get on with it and get the last race done," said van Gisbergen.

"The first priority is to finish fifth in the championship. My teammate Tim Slade is quite close to me in the points [22 points behind] and I want to keep him behind.

"I've also got to enjoy the racing over the weekend because it'll be my last one in a V8 for a while, so let's hope we can go out on a high.

"We've always been competitive at Sydney and it's one of our best tracks. Tim's in the same car as me so he'll be fast as well, but it's a long race. It'll be good to finish on the podium for Stone Brothers to end on a high as we've had a pretty rough year."

Fellow Kiwi Fabian Coulthard is hanging by his fingernails just inside the top 10.

He joined Brad Jones Racing at the beginning of the season and despite having to get used to a new car, new team, new engineer and new pit crew, he has done remarkably well -- so much so that he won the V8SC driver's pole as the driver most punching above his weight.

His goal this weekend is to try to get into single figures in the championship and end the season on a high.

"The goal for us all year has been to finish in the top 10, but it would be nice to go another few steps and finish in single figures." he said.

"Obviously anything can happen, but I've gone well here in the past. It's going to be tough with 250 kilometres each day and it's like Clipsal, where it's the longest we do with a single driver.

"Sydney is a bit like an endurance race, where it can be a race of attrition. Everybody's in the same boat, so you just have to do what you have to do."

While the two leading Kiwi drivers will be battling to hold their top 10 positions, the third New Zealander in the pack, Greg Murphy, will simply be hoping to finish his season somewhere near the top of the field. Murphy has had a horror this year and he has no confirmed seat for next year, so he will be very keen to close the door on 2012 on a high.

Champion-elect Jamie Whincup has only to turn up and not even race to collect his fourth V8 Supercars title, but that's not in his nature. He'll be out to win both races, which might make it awkward for the two drivers fighting it out for the other two podium spots.

Mark Winterbottom is in second at the moment but Whincup's teammate Craig Lowndes is just 163 points back.

Team Vodafone will want a one-two finish to the year so the FPR driver will have his work cut out.


V8 Supercars points after 13 rounds

1. Jamie Whincup 3639

2. Mark Winterbottom 3322

3. Craig Lowndes 3259

4. Will Davison 2851

5. Shane van Gisbergen 2554

6. Tim Slade 2532

7. Garth Tander 2363

8. Lee Holdsworth 2120

- NZ Herald

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