Van Gisbergen braced for Whincup resurgence
New Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen believes he’ll need to lift his game next season amid expectations of a fightback from team-mate Jamie Whincup.
Van Gisbergen’s maiden title has come in a first season at Red Bull where he well and truly shook-off his reputation as an inconsistent performer.
Although there were early wobbles, most notably sliding off on oil at Symmons Plains and a restart infringement at Hidden Valley, the Kiwi was near faultless in the second half of the year.
He ended the season on a run of 10 consecutive podium finishes, missing the rostrum just twice in his last 17 starts.
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Whincup was hardly dusted for pace, however, and appeared to have his team-mate’s measure at several events including Sandown and Bathurst before disaster struck.
Van Gisbergen narrowly defeated Whincup in the Armor All Pole Award battle seven to six over the season, but insists that outright speed is an area where he’ll need to improve in 2017.
“I think a lot of people were surprised that it was my car that was the consistent one and not the fastest one,” said Van Gisbergen.
“As a driver I am always my harshest critic on making mistakes and I think I really improved that this year.
“For me it is a pretty cool moment to win it on consistency.
“Jamie was really fast at a lot of races this year.
“I need to pick up my game and now that I’ve found consistency search for some speed again.
“He’s a very good qualifier so I have to step that up a little bit more too.
“He doesn’t like losing, that’s one of his strengths.
“He is a very motivated guy and I think he come back stronger than ever next year.
“I am really looking forward to the battle, it has been awesome this year.
“We have got along really well on and off the track and I think it’s going to be good next year.”
Whincup was left to congratulate his team-mate after taking a race win apiece over the weekend.
“We’ve battled it out all year and he’s cleaned up,” he said.
“The (Armor All) Pole Award, the championship, the Pirtek Enduro Cup, he’s done an unbelievably good job.
“That’s only going to motivate me to come back stronger next year.”
Van Gisbergen meanwhile insists that winning a maiden title will not dampen his own motivation.
Declaring after Saturday’s race his desire to stay in the category full-time in the years to come, the 27-year-old pointed to Supercars’ Gen2 rules as a key point of interest.
Holden and Triple Eight are the first to commit to a Gen2 package, expected to run a new-generation Commodore body and a V6 turbo engine from 2018.
“I think the changes for the future are exciting,” he said.
“Things are changing and evolving and they are always moving into a new challenge.
“With the new motors and cars in a year or two I think it is going to be great and then we will see where it goes.
“As I said yesterday every time I go racing I come back here and it’s the best series, the best drivers, the best racing and I love it.”