Motorsport: Kiwis emerge as V8 Supercars title bolters

Shane Van Gisbergen. Photo / Getty
Shane Van Gisbergen. Photo / Getty

The V8 Supercars championship will resume with all eyes on two wildcards after Kiwi drivers Shane Van Gisbergen and Fabian Coulthard emerged as title bolters on a quick-fire weekend of racing at the Australian GP.

Setting the scene for an intriguing championship resumption in Tasmania later this month, Red Bull Racing newcomer Van Gisbergen announced himself as a genuine threat to teammate Jamie Whincup by winning the Albert Park round while Coulthard finished second yesterday to show DJR/Team Penske are finally a force.

Championship leader Michael Caruso (Nissan) also performed strongly to show his position on the V8 ladder is not without warrant - but it was the battle between two new recruits upfront that has the potential to change the sport.

Both joining new teams in headline off-season signings, Kiwi's Van Gisbergen and Coulthard yesterday survived onslaughts from Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup to prove they are the real deal and genuine challengers to Mark Winterbottom's crown.

The fresh face duo could rock the establishment by legitimately challenging V8 warhorses Whincup, Winterbottom and Lowndes.

"I am feeling more comfortable every time I get in the car," Van Gisbergen said.

"It is going to be a long year and this is just the start but it had been an encouraging start to the season."

Van Gisbergen was the fastest Holden on the grid during the 48 lap four day sprint around Albert Park.

Winning three out four races and claiming his 7th GP win, Van Gisbergen is now part of an intriguing three way inter-team battle for the championship after joining Triple Eight Race Engineering in an expanded three car stable that sees Craig Lowndes shift to a Caltex entry.

"Shane did a tremendous job over the weekend and won a pure out speed race today,"said V8 legend Mark Skaife.

"He was in a bit of trouble at the start but was able to sneak away at the end. It is shaping up as a real battle between three of the heavyweights at Triple Eight and all these guys will be right in the championship mix.

"I have been very impressed with the way they have rolled out and I didn't expect a performance like this yet. Going from two to three cars is a big commitment and it is a fantastic start.

"I think they are already there (at the top of the field). The have showed they have genuine car speed."

- news.com.au

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