Tekno Autosports’ world renowned manager Steve Hallam admits that Shane van Gisbergen’s supreme performances in wet conditions are a mystery even to his own team.
Van Gisbergen took a double-victory at a soggy Sydney Motorsport Park on Saturday, setting up each win with breathtaking levels of confidence in the opening corners and on Safety Car restarts.
The 25-year-old New Zealander also streeted the field during the only other wet race held with the Next Generation V8 Supercars at Albert Park last year.
Prior to moving to Australia in 2012, Hallam worked with the likes of all-time greats Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet, Mika Hakkinen and Fernando Alonso during a near two-decade stint in Formula 1.
While stressing the team effort involved in Saturday’s victories, the highly experienced Hallam is fluid with his praise of Van Gisbergen.
“What I see of Shane, regardless of the conditions, is if the car is in the window he’s going to deliver,” Hallam told Speedcafe.com.
“I enjoy working with Shane because he gives 100 percent every time he gets in the car, you do not doubt that for one nanosecond.
“We don’t do a lot of wet running as a category, but when we do it’s an absolute delight to watch him out there.”
Van Gisbergen controlled Saturday’s races through a combined four Safety Car restarts.
The final saw the #97 Tekno Commodore miraculously hang on around the outside as Jamie Whincup attacked at Turn 1, before repeating the feat with Chaz Mostert at Turn 4.
“Driving in the rain requires a very deft touch, you’ve really got to feel the car through your fingertips because everything is backed off,” continued Hallam.
“One of the great mysteries of racing in the rain that I still don’t understand, even after all these years and all the drivers I’ve worked with, is how they know where the grip is and how much is there.
“Even on a lap-by-lap basis, it (the grip level) is changing all the time.
“For the guys that are consistently good in the wet, there is something there that we haven’t worked out how to measure, that they know how to find it and know what it is.
“It really comes down to the finesse of the driver and how he deals with the intangibles that mortals like us who sit in the garage haven’t yet found a way of quantifying.”
Typically, Van Gisbergen himself shrugged off his wet weather prowess on Saturday evening.
“I hate driving in the wet but for some reason I’m alright at it,” he smiled.
“It rained almost every race I had in Formula Ford in New Zealand and sitting in an open cockpit car was the worst!”
Van Gisbergen’s wet weather experience from his native New Zealand will undoubtedly have contributed to his affinity with the low-grip conditions.
His packed schedule of alternative motorsports, including drifting and rallying, is likely to have further refined his wet weather skills.
Hallam is a big supporter of Van Gisbergen’s extra-curricular racing activities; travelling with the driver to the recent Spa 24 Hours.
The veteran engineer turned manager believes it’s good for drivers to be exposed to other categories; proudly noting receiving an email from McLaren after Saturday’s second Sydney race.
“It gives me pleasure that people are watching us and taking note of how good our drivers are,” he said.
While Van Gisbergen sits a competitive fifth in the championship heading into today’s Race 28, the squad’s weakness has clearly been consistency.
The highs have included three race victories, but the campaign has also seen weekends where the VIP Petfoods Holden has been buried deep in the pack.
“There are many things that need to happen,” said Hallam of lifting the team’s lows.
“Motor racing requires effort, both mental and physical effort on the car.
“Motor racing also requires resources, both from an intellectual aspect and a material aspect, as well as a number of other factors that are too numerous to mention.
“In order to be successful you have to be on top of all of those silos of performance.
“The best example of that is the consistency that teams like Triple Eight have achieved over the years.
“Our job is to remove the weekends where we struggle and have more weekends, where your averages are consistent with a serious challenger for a championship.”
While Hallam’s decision to head to the minnow Tekno squad after a two-year tenure at Walkinshaw Racing surprised many, the Brit says there were “many factors” that led to the carefully considered move.
“If I had known him (Shane) then as I know him now it would have been a breeze of a decision,” he adds poignantly.
As for today’s 200km race, Van Gisbergen is relishing the forecasts of more rain.
“Anything can happen… it’s so variable here and even then there’s lots of patches around off-line,” he said.
“If it’s like that again it’s going to be exciting, but I hope it pisses down all day!”
The limit of three sets of wet tyres per car may throw a spanner in the works, however, if qualifying and much of the race is wet.
“I think we only get three sets of wet tyres for the weekend so I probably shouldn’t have done skids at the end,” added Van Gisbergen.