SVG to swap Europe for IMSA Mercedes program
Shane van Gisbergen’s move to Mercedes machinery for next year’s Bathurst 12 Hour will come amid a major change of direction for the Supercars star’s GT career.
The Kiwi has spent the past two seasons as a McLaren factory driver, competing in four out of five Blancpain Endurance Series events with the manufacturer each year.
With two clashes between the Blancpain and Supercars schedules for 2017, Van Gisbergen has agreed to end his McLaren ties and search for a new challenge.
He will focus his attention on America and IMSA team WeatherTech Racing, for which he has raced a Porsche in each of the last three Daytona 24 Hours.
WeatherTech is making the move to Mercedes for 2017, recently receiving its car from the Germany factory.
Although his full schedule is yet-to-be-confirmed by WeatherTech and his Red Bull Supercars team, Van Gisbergen is expecting to make multiple IMSA appearances.
Three of IMSA’s four long-distance events, Daytona (January 26-29), Sebring (March 15-18) and Watkins Glen (June 30-July 2) are free of direct Supercars clashes.
Daytona will give Van Gisbergen extensive experience of the Mercedes GT3 before joining Scott Taylor Motorsport for the Bathurst 12 Hour on February 3-5.
CLICK HERE for Speedcafe.com’s earlier story on Van Gisbergen’s Bathurst deal.
“With the calendar for next year it’s made a few things change,” Van Gisbergen confirmed to Speedcafe.com.
“I can’t go back to Europe so I’ve gone down a different avenue for 2017.
“I’ll race with WeatherTech next year and hopefully do three or four IMSA races.
“After Daytona, hopefully we’ll get to Sebring and Watkins Glen and a couple of others which would be awesome.
“We’ll work out what they need me for and get over there.”
As previously reported, Van Gisbergen will have one last run with McLaren at the Sepang 12 Hours a week after aiming to seal a maiden Supercars title in Sydney on December 2-4.
He will fly straight from Sepang to Daytona for his first test in the WeatherTech Mercedes, making it a hectic finish to the Kiwi’s stellar season.
Van Gisbergen stressed that the split with McLaren has been amicable and a return to Europe with the manufacturer remains possible for 2018.
The prospect of racing the Daytona 24 Hour, Bathurst 12 Hour, Clipsal 500 Adelaide and Sebring 12 Hour in the space of less than two months next year suggests that the versatile driver will be busier than ever.
“It’s a lot of racing and a lot of time in the car,” he said, stressing the benefit that racing GT cars has on his Supercars efforts.
“As a driver you feel that after three or four weeks out of the car over the off-season you’re a bit rusty.
“Getting that in early in the season is invaluable and would be awesome to do.
“It’ll be good to try out a different style of racing and different culture in America too because you learn so much more.
“I go GT racing in the first place to try and learn different things and improve my V8s.”