Shane van Gisbergen of Red Bull Racing Australia celebrates at the Auckland SuperSprint at Pukokohe.
Shane van Gisbergen of Red Bull Racing Australia celebrates at the Auckland SuperSprint at Pukokohe. MARK HORSBURGH

Kiwi in home straight after win in Auckland

MOTORSPORT: An emotional Shane van Gisbergen became the first New Zealander to win the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy and all but secured a maiden Supercars title at the Auckland SuperSprint.

The Kiwi settled for two second placings on Sunday at Pukekohe Park, behind Mark Winterbottom and Jamie Whincup, but with his win on Saturday was the dominant driver of the weekend.

Van Gisbergen, who will claim the championship in the final round in Sydney next month barring a complete disaster, was overcome after lifting the trophy named in honour of the likeable Kiwi racer who passed away in late 2011.

"The emotional stuff doesn't happen with me very often but I choked a few tears back on the in-lap,” said the 27-year-old Aucklander. "It is a pretty special thing. No Kiwi has done it.

"Everyone was his friend - he was such a nice guy. I remember coming into the series he was always so welcoming and encouraging. He never gave me any tips - he was a racer. I always had fond memories of him.”

Van Gisbergen will carry a 191-point lead over his Red Bull Racing teammate Jamie Whincup to Sydney with two 150-point races left to complete in the championship.

He has dominated the Sydney street circuit in recent years and would need to have either a DNF or finish outside the top 16 in both races, and Whincup to win, to miss out.

"It has got to happen first,” he said. "The gap is quite big but we still have to go there and get a good result - at least on the Saturday.

"We did what we set out to do this weekend - no mistakes, four good races and got some good points. We increased the lead - that is a bonus.

"Unfortunately there is an awkward four-week break now.”

When asked what he is looking forward to most if he becomes the first New Zealander since Jim Richards in 1991 to win the championship, van Gisbergen was his typical exuberant self.

"A big burnout - I have won that race three years in a row but never been allowed to do a skid so hopefully this year,” he said.

The pivotal moment of the weekend took place earlier in the day as Whincup tagged van Gisbergen at the hairpin in race one, which incurred a drive-through penalty and gave away a vital haul of points in the process.

Whincup managed to get the car going in eighth before charging back through the field to grab third place.

The Kiwi explained that he had been told by his race engineer over the radio that Whincup was faster and to not hold him up and to allow him to pass if a move was on.

"He had a look the lap before and I didn't think he was close enough,” van Gisbergen said.

"I was just taking my normal line and then got spun out. He came out straight away admitted his mistake and apologised and carried on.”

The pair has raced each other hard but fair all year, particularly in the latter part of the season when it has essentially been a two-horse race for the title.

Whincup, a six-time series champion, said it was a simple mistake.

"There was no door open. My car was pretty quick and took a lunge down the inside and locked the rears, made a mistake and took out my teammate,” he said.

"There was no malice. I apologised and thankfully car No.97 kept going and got a good result.”

with APNZ


Ahead of the final round in Sydney

1. Shane van Gisbergen 3089

2. Jamie Whincup 2898

3. Craig Lowndes 2596

4. Scott McLaughlin 2575

5. Will Davison 2403

6. Mark Winterbottom 2384