Motorsport: Van Gisbergen firing

FAST: Shane Van Gisbergen finished fourth in Tasmania. Photo / Getty Images
FAST: Shane Van Gisbergen finished fourth in Tasmania. Photo / Getty Images

Kiwi Shane Van Gisbergen kept momentum in his move up the leaderboard after finishing fourth in the opening race of the V8 Supercars Championship weekend in Tasmania yesterday.

Van Gisbergen, eighth overall after the opening stop in Adelaide, was competitive throughout qualifying and in the opening race at Symmons Plains near Launceston.

The 22-year-old, who will defend the Mark Porter Trophy at the ITM400 in Hamilton in three weeks, drove his SP Tools Ford competitively throughout qualifying and in the first of two races this weekend.

He pushed defending champion Jamie Whincup (Team Vodafone Holden) for the final spot on the podium after the Ford Performance Racing pair of Will Davison and Mark Winterbottom pushed clear for the major honours.

Van Gisbergen's forward momentum was stalled when he was forced to defend against Whincup's team-mate Craig Lowndes, who closed aggressively over the closing laps.

Davison claimed his second race win of the season to lead home his FPR teammate Winterbottom, and the eighth of his career. It extended his lead in the championship to 39 points over Whincup.

Importantly, Van Gisbergen has moved up to sixth place overall.

Compatriot Fabian Coulthard (Lockwood Racing Holden) struggled mid-pack, eventually finishing 16th and drops to eighth in the championship.

Greg Murphy missed the Tasmania stop as he recovers from back surgery but plans to return for the final time for the championship in Hamilton on April 20-22. "We were just lacking the pace of the front two cars," Van Gisbergen said. "While we ended up fourth today hopefully we can tune the car up for tomorrow because we are nearly there."

Van Gisbergen is desperate to be firing on all cylinders when the championships heads across the Tasman for the next round in Hamilton. "Winning there last year was an experience like no other for me," the championship's youngest driver said. "I would dearly love to win there again especially as it's the final time we will race in Hamilton. There's nothing like winning at home."

Davison was delighted with his winning effort.

"I just can't believe it," said Davison. "Another one-two for FPR is really important for our team. We just have to keeping building on this. All my guys have done an amazing job. It's never fun battling with your team-mate, you have to be so careful."

His teammate was less thrilled with second place.

"I just can't get off the line, but the car's quick. I caught him but there would have been panel damage, but it's good. My bad ankle is hurting me off the line and I just can't control it and get a good start," said Winterbottom.

It was a disastrous day for the 2010 V8 supercars champion James Courtney after he clashed with Rick Kelly on the first lap and the duo spun to the rear of the field. They were only able to recover to 18th and 19th respectively with the incident under investigation.

Only 17 cars finished on the lead lap of the tight 2.4km circuit with a further longer race over 200km tomorrow.

- APNZ

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