Van Gisbergen ‘stoked’ at Supercars’ Gen3 gear shift outcome

Shane van Gisbergen

Shane van Gisbergen is “stoked” that fully manual gear shifting will continue into Supercars’ Gen3 era in 2023.

Now a two-time Supercars champion, van Gisbergen had been among the most vocal advocates during 2021 for preserving the status quo with respect to changing gears, that being a sequential lever and heel-toe down changes.

It has now been decided by the category that paddle shift and auto blip will not be introduced after all, a call which was naturally welcomed by the New Zealander.

Despite the potential for awkwardness given he drives for General Motors homologation team Triple Eight Race Engineering, van Gisbergen had been clear on his opinion about paddle shift, which he described in one press conference as “shit” and said in another that he wanted it “throw[n] … in the bin”.

While looking forward to less aerodynamic interference with Gen3, he had also described the current-spec Supercars as awesome in terms of the challenge of the heel-and-toe in braking, an artform which would have been rendered obsolete by auto blip.

Notably, van Gisbergen was the one current driver to be quoted in Supercars’ announcement this morning that it has done away with plans for paddles and auto blip.

“I’m stoked with this decision by Supercars,” he declared.

“I was vocal about it, so was pretty much every other driver.

“We know the fans wanted the same thing we did, so I’m sure everyone is happier with this decision to keep the gear shift the way it is.”

As van Gisbergen said, he was far from the only driver who expressed a distaste for what had seemed inevitable only months ago.

Bathurst 1000 winner Nick Percat, on the move this off-season from Brad Jones Racing to Walkinshaw Andretti United, once stated that flappy paddles would “probably kill my love for Supercars” and made repeated calls to drop the idea.

Ominously, the Gen3 prototypes rolled out for demonstrations at last December’s Repco Bathurst 1000 with auto blip set up, even if the Mustang had both a sequential gearstick and paddles.

James Courtney, the 2010 Supercars champion, drove that Mustang at Mount Panorama and declared that the braking zones were “boring” given he did not have to heel-and-toe.

Former drivers such as Great Race winners Paul Morris and Greg Murphy, and Bathurst 1000 pole-sitter Mark Larkham, were of a similar mindset.

While Larkham hosted the Gen3 Unpacked video series which rolled out from last September to November, he had used Supercars’ Tuesday Night Takeway show to express his opposition to paddles and auto blip, earlier in the year.

The popular television pundit was also quoted in this morning’s announcement, in which he emphasised that manual shifting is a skillset which distinguishes Supercars from many other categories.

“In my view, this is an important and correct outcome for Supercars and its fans,” said Larkham, also a former team owner.

“We are a uniquely Australian category, with a uniquely Australian set of rules that is the envy of the touring car world.

“Part of that success story of Supercars has been the tools like manual shifting, anti-roll bar and brake bias cockpit activity, that showcase the athleticism, the physiology and the psychology of the driver.

“This is definitely the right outcome for Supercars, a sport like any other that is about human endeavour and putting athletes under pressure.”

Little preference for paddle shift had been publicly stated among team owners/bosses, with WAU director/co-owner Ryan Walkinshaw claiming he knew only of Triple Eight to be in favour.

The Banyo squad’s then-team principal Roland Dane did at one stage express support for paddles, but later said he was indifferent, although he was firmly opposed to the idea of “bullshitting” fans with a gearstick which did not function as a true manual anyway.

From the Ford homologation team, Dick Johnson Racing general manager Rob Herrod, since named as the Blue Oval’s Supercars engine builder, was unequivocal in his preference for the gearstick and opined that “the manual shift gives better television entertainment”.

Meanwhile, as Larkham alluded to, anti-roll bars have been added to the Gen3 prototypes since their demonstrations at the Bathurst 1000, having also appeared set to be deleted with the new ruleset.

Testing of those prototypes continues at Winton on February 22-23, with more demonstrations to be conducted at the season-opening Beaurepaires Sydney SuperNight on March 4-6.

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