Motorsport: Kiwi drivers in zone to make mark at home

By Eric Thompson

Thousands will cheer NZ heroes - even though they all live in Oz.

Photo / Greg Bowker
Photo / Greg Bowker

This weekend's fourth round of the V8 Supercars championship at Pukekohe is the only time it's a New Zealand versus Australia grudge match, and that's more to do with the partisan crowd than the drivers.

When the 25 drivers line up on the grid back across the Ditch they just regard one another as yet another racecar driver who has to be beaten. For a start, the three Kiwis in the main game - Fabian Coulthard, Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen - are all domiciled in various parts of Australia and have been there for a number of years.

However, every one of them is pleased as punch to be able to strut his wares on home soil. Mere mortals probably don't understand, and can only try to imagine what it must be like to have thousands of New Zealanders urging you on.

All three New Zealanders have been front and centre this week in the run-up to this weekend's big adventure and one driver in particular, van Gisbergen, would rather do his talking in the car and on the race track than anywhere else, and good on him.

However, one thing that does light his eyes up is chatting about racing in front of his fellow Kiwis.

"It's the race we all [Kiwi drivers] look forward to throughout the year and I can't wait to go racing," said van Gisbergen. "Puke's a great event and there was a pretty good turnout last year and hopefully it'll be the same this year.

"We did quite well last year with a podium and were among it in the other races. The car's a lot better this year and we understand it much more now. We always go all right here and I like Puke and the crowd who really get behind you.

"It's one of my better tracks ever since I started racing. And we're back on the hard tyre, which we were pretty good on at Adelaide, so we will just see what happens and see if we can get over the hill there [coming on to the front straight], that's the key. If your car is good there, it'll be good around the whole track."

The format for the three days is quite different from the other rounds with a sprint race today, two more tomorrow and the long feature race on Sunday afternoon. The teams and drivers will be hoping their respective cars are fast straight out of the truck, as there's very little practice time to sort any major issues out.

"The crazy thing about this weekend is that there's only half-an-hour practice before you're straight into qualifying and then straight into the race today.

"It's going to be pretty full-on for a championship round and it's going to be hectic with not a lot of practice, but I'm looking forward to the challenge and everyone's in the same boat. It's going to be tough, but having Kiwi fans yelling for you is something I look forward to every year," said van Gisbergen.

"Hopefully one of us gets that Jason Richards trophy - that would be such a powerful thing to do, it would be an amazing moment."

- NZ Herald

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