Motorsport: V8s bed in big changes as season begins

By Eric Thompson

Shane van Gisbergen is equal favourite to win the 2016 title with Aussie bookies after his move to Red Bull Racing. Photo / Getty Images
Shane van Gisbergen is equal favourite to win the 2016 title with Aussie bookies after his move to Red Bull Racing. Photo / Getty Images

The 2016 V8 Supercars championship has had its biggest shake up in 10 years during the off season.

There have been numerous driver switches, teams adding new cars, and Mercedes is no longer taking part to name the bigger changes. Pit crews have seen additions and subtractions and some engineers have set up shop in different garages.

One of the more talked-about moves in pit lane was Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen parting ways with Tekno Autosport and joining Triple Eight's Red Bull Racing Australia alongside Jamie Whincup.

The Giz has been there, or there about, in the title race and has not finished outside the top 10 since 2010 with a best finish of second in 2014. Now that he's with an outfit that has multiple driver and team championships, Aussie bookies have him equal favourite to win the title with teammate and six-time champ Whincup.

Both drivers have tasted victory at Adelaide in the past, and neither are known for not shying away from rubbing door handles, so it'll be interesting to see how today's first race will pan out.

"All the prep for the weekend has gone really well," said van Gisbergen.

"There are a few subtle differences between this car and my other one, but I'll only really know how much during qualifying.

"The biggest difference is being part of a three-car garage and having teammates and lots of engineers. It's a big step up in those regards and it's pretty exciting.

"Clipsal is the best place to start the season. The crowds are big and the atmosphere is fantastic. All the drivers are pretty pumped to start the year and as a driver there's a lot things to figure out around who's driving what this year.

"As long I get out of here with a good amount of points I'll be happy. I'm not interested in getting one up on my teammates ... I'm more interested in beating everyone else."

Another of the big-name changes is also a New Zealander. Fabian Coulthard is very much looking forward to commencing battle with his new team and car now part of the DJR Team Penske Racing. The Kiwi won in Adelaide last year so has a handle on how to put in a fast lap in a Holden, but a Ford is different kettle of fish.

In an earlier interview with the Herald, he said, "We've been up against it a bit having to look at everything. Phil [Keed, engineer who also moved from Brad Jones Racing] and I need to get a good understanding of how the car works. As things settle down and everyone's ideas are taken on board we'll really start to see some progress as we all ... work together.

"Clipsal will be great and I'm hoping to replicate what I did last year [win]."

Volvo pilot Scott McLaughlin is back at the track where he made his name in 2014 by pushing Whincup all the way and pouncing when he made a mistake to finish on the podium.

Last year wasn't the best and McLaughlin is looking to make amends at one of his favourite circuits this weekend.

"I'm really looking forward to this weekend as everyone starts on zero points," he said. "After the strong form our car showed towards the end of the season last year, I think 2016 will be a good year for us.

"I'll be taking each race one at a time and if I have to, I'll worry about the points towards the end of the season. I've got a totally different mindset [this year] and will hopefully be able to have a much fun as I can."

The two remaining Kiwis in the field will have their work cut out. Both are relative newcomers to the top table of V8 racing and despite spending time in the Development Series, have struggled at times to make an impact at racing time.

Andre Heimgartner will make a better fist of it this year having been pushed around last season. He showed he can qualify well but his race craft among the more hardened drivers left too many doors open. After being shown the door at Super Black Racing, he's now found a home at Lucas Dumbrell Racing.

Filling the void left by Heimgartner at the end of 2015 was Chris Pither.

He too had a rough time but the car is a proven quality so if he's a fast learner he may be able to haul himself up through the field.

- NZ Herald

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