Van Gisbergen in late Spa 24 Hour bid
Shane van Gisbergen is closing on a late deal to race a McLaren at the famed Spa 24 Hours in Belgium later this month.
Although final confirmation is not due until later this week, the V8 Supercars star is expected to line-up at the Blancpain Endurance Series event in a Von Ryan Racing entered McLaren MP4-12C
Van Gisbergen drove Tony Quinn’s MP4-12C in February’s Bathurst 12 Hour alongside Andrew Kirkaldy and has since kept in touch with the McLaren GT program chief in the hope of an international opportunity.
“We’re trying to get something together to do that race,” van Gisbergen confirmed to Speedcafe.com of Spa.
“I’ve been talking to Andy and it’s looking pretty promising to head over there this year.”
The Von Ryan McLaren is a late addition to Spa’s 18-strong Pro Cup class entry.
The UK-based team is owned by expatriate Kiwis Dave Ryan and Warren Briggs and was originally contracted to help build the McLaren GT3 cars three years ago.
Van Gisbergen’s likely appearance is set to further boost Australasian interest in the Spa event, which is already confirmed to see Australians Craig Lowndes (Pro-Am AF Corse Ferrari), Roger Lago/Steven Richards/Steve Owen/David Russell (Pro-Am Lago Racing Lamborghini) and Richard Muscat (Pro Cup Black Falcon Mercedes) in action.
While Lowndes will miss a test with his V8 Supercars team as part of an extended trip to Europe, Van Gisbergen plans to join Tekno Autosports at Queensland Raceway on Tuesday, July 22, before dashing to Belgium for the July 23-27 race meeting.
Both drivers will then return to Australia for Queensland Raceway’s Coates Hire Ipswich 400, to be held the weekend after Spa.
Unlike Lowndes, who raced at Spa during his 1997 Formula 3000 campaign, Van Gisbergen’s experience of the legendary venue is limited to computer simulations.
“I’ll do a few more laps (on the simulator) to learn it and then once I get there I’ll see what it’s like for real,” he said.
“You never get the elevation changes and obviously Eau Rouge and other places are quite steep, so you never know until you do it in person.”
Spa will mark Van Gisbergen’s second overseas GT foray of the year having also competed in the Daytona 24 Hours in January.
Disappointed by recent talk that a date clash appears set to rule V8 Supercars drivers out of February’s Bathurst 12 Hour, the 25-year-old is already eyeing a return to Daytona next year, as well as a possible berth in the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
Amid the sporadic GT appearances, Van Gisbergen continues to enjoy a promising V8 Supercars campaign with Tekno, which included another trio of top five finishes at the weekend’s Castrol Townsville 500.
Sitting fourth in points, 279 adrift of leader Mark Winterbottom, Van Gisbergen says that the upcoming Pirtek Enduro Cup will largely shape his season.
“This year is looking pretty good, we’ve got good speed and I’m really looking forward to the enduros,” he said of his efforts with Tekno.
“I think Jonathon will be an awesome co-driver and some good results should help us get up a few spots.
“It’s hard to know until after the enduros,” he added of his championship credentials. “They’re such big points races.
“We’re there but we’re really a whole weekend off Frosty, so the enduros will be important.”
Van Gisbergen also expressed relief at the recent settlement of an 18-month dispute over his move from Stone Brothers Racing to Tekno at the start of last season.
“It never affected me on track, but obviously off track it feels pretty good to be over,” he said of the dispute.
“I’m glad it’s over and we can just get on with it. I’m very happy that it’s finished.”