Shane van Gisbergen’s V8 Supercars rivals say they will be disappointed to see the 23-year-old New Zealander leave the sport at the end of the 2012 season.
As revealed by Speedcafe.com at the weekend, van Gisbergen is expected to exit the category and his Gold Coast home following next month’s Sydney Telstra 500 in favour of a quieter lifestyle in New Zealand.
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While van Gisbergen and the Stone Brothers Racing team will not comment on his plans until an official announcement is made, the championship’s leading drivers have voiced their opinions on the situation.
“I think it’s a shame,” said Ford Performance Racing’s Mark Winterbottom.
“He’s a really good driver but sometimes this sport can look like it’s all glamorous, and when you’re a racer there’s times when it’s completely different.
“Racing go-karts it was you and your machine and you work in the garage and on the weekends you raced. If you weren’t good enough or whatever you’d go and work harder. There were not the pressures and all of that sort of side of it.
“I think he’s just a genuine bloke and a genuine racer and sometimes the big picture can affect that I think. It would be a big shame.”
TeamVodafone’s Craig Lowndes, who has been one of the category’s biggest public relations drawcards for almost 15 years, says he understands why van Gisbergen could be feeling burnt out.
“If he does (quit) then he’s got his own reasons for it,” said Lowndes.
“The demands on everyone these days on and off the track are pretty high.
“It would be a shame not to have him on the grid because he’s a talent… and he’s a Kiwi so we’ve got someone to pick at!”
Lowndes’ team-mate Jamie Whincup also pointed to the fact that van Gisbergen is New Zealand’s highest profile driver as a reason that his exit will be a bad outcome for the series.
The country could be down to just one representative next year (Fabian Coulthard) if van Gisbergen and Greg Murphy, who currently has no confirmed drive for 2013, both depart.
“I’ve found him to be a good kid who has a big place in the series being a Kiwi and being so loose,” said Whincup of van Gisbergen.
“He’s always loose as hell out there, which I think is good.
“I can certainly relate with what I’ve read (about why he wants to leave).
“Fingers crossed he has a break, gets away from it for three or four weeks, recharges the batteries and realises why he loves the sport and makes a decision in the new year. Hopefully there’s still a spot for him to slip into.”
Meanwhile, van Gisbergen’s on-track antics at Winton only added to the attention surrounding his future.
A mistake from the Kiwi on Saturday triggered a multi-car incident that took out FPR star Will Davison – a collision for which the #9 Ford driver later apologised.
Sunday qualifying then saw van Gisbergen handed a one-minute pitlane hold penalty for impeding Craig Lowndes, while he also raised eyebrows in the race by twice taking a heavily defensive approach when dicing with SBR stable-mate Tim Slade.
“We are in a tight battle for 5th in the championship so I was just giving it a go,” van Gisbergen wrote on social media website Facebook.com to address fan criticism of his driving.
Although van Gisbergen had ignored a request from his engineer and team manager Dave Stuart to let Slade through in order to save fuel, team principal Ross Stone said post-race that a telemetry failure had contributed to a bad situation.
“It was obvious today that Tim had a really quick car, but internally at SBR they are free to race as long as they don’t touch one another,” said Stone.
“Shane was marginal on fuel and unfortunately we had lost telemetry on the number nine car so we were flying blind and just relying on Shane to tell us about fuel use.
“It was a huge risk for him to try and maintain position against speed and fuel use, but that’s the way it rolls sometimes.”
Van Gisbergen will enter next month’s Sydney Telstra 500 just 22 points ahead of Slade in the fifth place battle.