Shane van Gisbergen hopes that a return to the Daytona 24 Hours in January will mark another step towards breaking into the Le Mans and Nurburgring endurance classics.
The 25-year-old Kiwi has this week been confirmed for a second year at Daytona in the Alex Job Racing Porsche; a team he was introduced to by former Pirtek Enduro Cup co-driver Jeroen Bleekemolen.
Van Gisbergen could also compete with the team next year at the Sebring 12 Hours and the Petit Le Mans (Road Atlanta), pending confirmation of the driver seeding requirements for the United SportsCar Championship races.
Talks to return to Europe are meanwhile ongoing following his outing with Von Ryan Racing at this year’s Spa 24 Hours, which came after impressing McLaren at February’s Bathurst 12 Hours.
With Van Gisbergen’s international reputation and pool of contacts growing, the Tekno Autosports V8 Supercars star is hopeful of ticking off more of his dream races as soon as next year.
“I’m really looking forward to going back to Daytona, I loved the race last year and the style of race that it is,” Van Gisbergen told Speedcafe.com.
“It was just so different than anything else I’d done. The extra 12 hours (compared to Bathurst) seemed like so much more. It was really tough.
“The second time around I feel like I’ll be much better prepared for that style of racing.
“Doing a couple more of those races would be awesome, especially Le Mans and the Nurburgring.
“Next year the Le Mans test (which is compulsory for rookies) doesn’t conflict (with V8 Supercars) so it can work, we just need to find something suitable.
“I think it’ll be pretty tough to get in there but hopefully we can put something together.”
Van Gisbergen admits that he initially struggled with the challenge of driving during the night at both Daytona and Spa.
“I really struggled at the test day,” he said of Daytona.
“I’d driven at Abu Dhabi (in V8 Supercars) at night, but that’s like driving in the daylight (due to the lighting).
“It was tough, but by the time the race came around I was used to it and the times were just as fast in the night as they were in the day.
“Spa was then another level again because as soon as you leave the first part of the track there’s no lights at all, which made it even tougher.
“Dealing with the traffic at Daytona was a real adjustment for me as well because at Bathurst you’re the fastest car, so you’re only ever looking out the front window, not the back,” he added.
“In GTD, all you do is look in the mirrors and there’s quite an art to letting the faster guys go without losing too much time.
“That’s where my team-mates were really good. I learnt a lot there that I think will make me more street-wise this time around.”
With all V8 Supercars drivers shut out of the Bathurst 12 Hour GT race due to a date clash with the pre-season test, Van Gisbergen says he hopes to see more of his rivals try to head overseas next year.
Craig Lowndes and Red Bull team-mate Jamie Whincup have both recently expressed interest in Daytona, while the former also continues to work on getting to Le Mans.
“Some only race the V8 Supercars, which is their own choice, but it’s pretty cool to drive other things and experience them,” said the Kiwi.
“Everyone in the V8 Supercars field is basically good enough to go and run there, they just need to chase the drives and make it happen.”
While GT co-drives provide the bulk of the opportunities for the V8 Supercars regulars on both sides of the Atlantic, Van Gisbergen adds that a NASCAR appearance is also on his radar.
“A NASCAR road course would be awesome because the cars are pretty much like ours, only heavier and with bigger motors and less tyre,” he said.
“I’ve had a small chat to a couple of guys about it (NASCAR) that seem keen, but if you don’t have any real contacts you need to bring a budget, which is not the way I want to do it.
“Hopefully we can get some more contacts next year and see where it goes. I’d love to do one of those races in the future.”
Van Gisbergen will be behind the wheel of V8 touring cars both this weekend and next, tackling the NZ SuperTourers at Pukekohe before the V8 Supercars season finale in Sydney.
Van Gisbergen and co-driver Simon Evans lead the SuperTourer Endurance Series standings going into the final round, while the Tekno entry is fourth in the V8 Supercars standings.