Shane van Gisbergen must surely be the world's best all-round driver after nine straight wins in four different categories
Ever since the glorious collision of the two greatest discoveries of mankind, fire and the wheel, the human race has been racing. So enamoured are we with the automobile, we took one to the moon.
Race car drivers have been celebrated across the continents and decades.
Currently, in Shane van Gisbergen, we have the best driver on the planet.
Yeah, better than Lewis Hamilton, the peerless F1 champion. Better than Scott Dixon, the incomparable IndyCars superstar. Better than current Supercars champ, now Indy rookie, Scott McLaughlin. And world rally champ Sebastian Ogier, drift star Mike Whiddett, Gymkana legend Ken Block and midget hero Micheal Pickens.
They're all great drivers, but right here, right now, none can hold a candle to van Gisbergen, whose multi-discipline, multi-car win streak beggars belief.
It's no secret to petrolheads what a phenomenon SVG is. The astonishingly talented driver is to a car what skin is to our bodies. From his grommet days in speedway and carts, through his impressive rookie years in Formula V, Formula Ford and the Toyota Racing Series, in to his outstanding career in V8 Supercars, he's been the man to watch.
He debuted in Supercars aged 18, and since 2010, hasn't finished outside the top 10 in the championship. It was never F1 or Indy, tin-tops all the way.
During his time in the Australian V8s, he has always kept his hand in a vast array of categories, preferring to keep fit with the rigours and experience of racing, not time at the gym.
In 2015, during an off weekend in Supercars, he won the NZ Radio Control Association North Island Internal Combustion Off-road Champs. Yep, remote control cars.
He's driven GT cars, sports cars, in endurance series, 12-hour races, 24-hour races, Super Tourers — the list goes on.
In the Covid-19 lockdown, he raced in simulators.
He has an almost savant-like ability to shapeshift into whatever driver he needs to be on any given weekend.
Unlike most drivers, his relationship with the media has been detached. He does his talking with his hands and feet. If not encouraged by his team, he is nigh on impossible to nail down. He's raw, he's honest and can be disarmingly abrupt. But he's been put on this planet to drive rather than talk about it.
Late last year, SVG embarked on a barely believable run across numerous categories. The winning theme started at Bathurst in October, 2020. A race that has eluded him for well over a decade, albeit with some heartbreaking close calls, finally relented to him.
He won around the mountain in a peerless drive with Garth Tander. Victory one.
In November, he tried his hand at rallying. He drove his dad's RS 1800 Escort in the two-wheel drive comp and won. Victory two.
The next day, he competed in the one-off Battle of Jack's Ridge, a rally sprint on a purpose-built track against the best of NZ rally talent. It was a knockout event he won in yet another different car, a Mitsubishi Mirage AP4. Victory three.
In January, he turned his hand to the New Zealand Grand Prix. Driving an open wheel TRS car, the FT60, he started the race from pit lane after accidentally setting off his in-car fire extinguisher.
He drove like a man possessed, disassembling the field with superior speed, outrageous control and a passing venom rarely seen at that level. He won from essentially last place in a car he barely knew. Victory four.
The V8 Supercars Championship returned in February. The first weekend consisted of two sprint races around the legendary Bathurst circuit — two 250km races, certainly not as foreboding as the 1000km event, but immensely challenging all the same. He won both. Victories five and six.
Then he broke his collarbone while mountain biking. He was hospitalised and patched up.
That was two weeks ago. Astonishingly, he decided to compete in last weekend's Supercars round at Sandown, three races over two days. The talk was he'd be lucky to qualify. At best, he'd limp around the track and attempt to pick up a few championship points.
He qualified in 17th position. From there, the clip-winged maestro drove the race of his life. He terrorised his way through the field to win the opening race. The last time anyone won a Supercars race from that far back at Sandown was in 1965. Victory seven.
The next day, in the wet conditions the Kiwi hot-shoe revels in, he won the next two races from pole position. Victories eight and nine.
Five consecutive Supercar wins to start the season. Six Supercar wins on the bounce. Nine wins in a row, over five months in four different categories and four distinctly different vehicles.
Triple Eight Race Engineering supremo Roland Dane said last year that van Gisbergen was the best all-round driver in the world. After what he has produced the past few months, who would argue?
In the nicest possible way, he is a freak who couldn't even be stopped by Auckland traffic in the shadow of a level 3 lockdown.