Van Gisbergen busy ahead of V8s season

Shane Van Gisbergen with his 2016 Red Bull Racing Commodore.
Shane Van Gisbergen with his 2016 Red Bull Racing Commodore.

Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen is already racing away from his Australian V8 Supercars rivals at the start of the 2016 season.

While most of opponents are still on holidays, and his new team mate Craig Lowndes is recovering from a broken collarbone after a dirt-bike crash, van Gisbergen is heading to America.

He leaves today for the Daytona 24-Hour sports car classic, shooting for victory in the GT Daytona class with a Porsche 911 after a runner-up finish a year ago.

A week later he will be on the grid for the Bathurst 12-hour race in a McLaren 650S, before the shakedown and first test laps with his new Red Bull Commodore.

"I'm living in a suitcase these days," van Gisbergen laughs.

He is also aiming for a return to the Blancpain Endurance series in Europe and a regular place in the Australian GT Endurance Championship later in the year.

"I like to keep busy. Others don't seem to do much outside the V8s. (But) I've improved in the last couple of years with all the different experiences," he says.

Gisbergen is heading to Daytona to renew his relationship with Alex Job Racing, driving an all-new Porsche 911 and hopeful of going one place better than their runner-up spot in 2015. He can still feel the burn after a narrow defeat by a Chrysler Viper at the end of a full day of racing.

"We were only eight seconds behind and when you can see them it's a bit of a heartbreaker," he says.

"The worst thing about last year is that we had such an awesome race. This will be my third trip and my third year with the same team and drivers."

He is sharing the all-new 911 GT3R with race number 22 in the GT Daytona class and is looking forward to some extra speed over 2015. He is expecting the car to be qualified by Leh Keen, who did the job last year, and the five-strong drive roster also includes Gunnar Jeannette, David MacNeil and Cooper MacNeil.

"It's cool to try another car. It's bloody awesome," he says.

"The old car was just a Carrera Cup car with a big motor, but this is a proper race car with all the aero, ABS brakes and traction control."

How does he rate it against a V8 Supercar?

"It's gutless compared to a V8 but easy to drive with all the grip it has," he laughs.

There will be a giant field of 50-plus cars at Daytona, including prototypes that can top 400km/h in the race for outright victory, and van Gisbergen said that's the biggest challenge.

"Daytona is not the hardest track, the biggest thing is traffic management and doing consistent lap times with so much traffic around."

He rates the race and said it's a good start to the 2016 season.

"This is probably one of my favourites for the year. You get so many miles. Racing in America is just awesome. It's different to what I expected, everything is so huge there."

Van Gisbergen will be jetting back from Florida to hit the track at Mount Panorama next Thursday, sharing a McLaren 650S with his former Tekno boss Jono Webb and his European co-driver Alvaro Parente.

"The 12-hour will be interesting. And I want to try and do the Australian GT Endurance rounds as well.

"I'm still working on a Blancpain drive. It sounds promising, but nothing is locked in."

Things get serious on February 18 with his first serious hitout in the Red Bull Commodore, although van Gisbergen has already made a number of visits to the Triple Eight base in Brisbane to check progress on his all-new car.

"I haven't driven the race car yet but I've been up to the shop a few times and watched the car being built. It's an impressive facility," he says.

"We have a shakedown because it's an all-new car. Then testing. I'm looking forward to it.
"As far as expectations go, I don't have any. Just an open mind. It's a pretty cool looking thing."

- news.com.au

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