Van Gisbergen waits on McLaren GT fate
Despite sensationally leading McLaren to victory in the Bathurst 12 Hour, Shane van Gisbergen remains without a confirmed deal to return to Europe with the manufacturer this season.
The 26-year-old Kiwi joined McLaren’s factory driver roster last year, running four of the five-round Blancpain Endurance Series events between his V8 Supercars commitments.
Driving for Von Ryan Racing alongside Rob Bell and the now Porsche-contracted Kevin Estre, Van Gisbergen played a key role in race wins at both Silverstone and the Nurburgring.
The Von Ryan Racing team has been shutdown over the off-season amid Kiwi owner Dave Ryan’s move back to Formula 1 with Manor.
McLaren late last week announced its roster of 2016 factory drivers without mention of the V8 Supercars star.
A statement confirmed the retention of Bell and Bathurst winner Alvaro Parente, as well as the signing of former French Carrera Cup champion Côme Ledogar.
Bell and Ledogar will both compete in the BES, while Parente is being sent to the United States to race in the K-Pax Pirelli World Challenge team, which is also set to include Erebus’ Bathurst 12 Hour young gun Austin Cindric.
When asked by Speedcafe.com where Van Gisbergen fits into the manufacturer’s plans, McLaren GT director Andrew Kirkaldy said that the Kiwi’s role remains a work in progress.
“We don’t know that at the moment,” he said.
“We are discussing it but it is not decided. We would like to have him again.
“Obviously he is with a new team (Red Bull Racing Australia) and we have got to discuss that (his availability), but there are no decisions yet.”
Kirkaldy added that there remains “a possibility” of seeing Van Gisbergen return to the BES, of which four out of five rounds again avoid direct date clashes with the V8 Supercars Championship.
“We’ve got programs in several different series and what we have announced is only a bit of it,” he said.
Kirkaldy, who drove alongside Van Gisbergen in Tony Quinn’s McLaren at Bathurst two years ago, is full of praise for the V8 star’s efforts with the Von Ryan squad last year.
“Shane is fantastic, really good,” he said.
“We had a good run. At Silverstone we made a brave call and Shane had to go out there drive and save a lot of fuel and he did an amazing job at that.
“At the Nurburgring we made a good call. We weren’t struggling but we didn’t have a good qualifying but again he drive a really good race and went on to victory.”
After taking McLaren’s biggest GT3 victory to date on Sunday, Van Gisbergen reiterated his hope to again dovetail his V8 Supercars commitments with more GT outings.
“We’ve been speaking to Andrew to try and lock it down and go back to Europe again this year,” he smiled. “Maybe now is a good time to ask again.”
Van Gisbergen scored pole position for the Bathurst 12 Hour with a new qualifying lap record on Saturday before going on to secure the race lap record and victory double.