SVG driving conservatively in bid to resurrect championship

Shane van Gisbergen is held wide by Will Brown in Race 4. Picture: Ross Gibb Photography

Shane van Gisbergen is held wide by Will Brown in Race 4. Picture: Ross Gibb Photography

Shane van Gisbergen says he was “conservative” in Race 4 at the Beaurepaires Melbourne SuperSprint due to his deficit to the top of the Repco Supercars Championship points table.

The three-time champion was credited with zero points from Race 1 of the season, when he crossed the finish line first in Newcastle, due to the disqualification over an illegally mounted cooling system in his Red Bull Ampol Racing Camaro.

Van Gisbergen started the Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix weekend in 11th position in the drivers’ standings at 126 points behind leader Chaz Mostert but, after a third place in the second race at Albert Park, he is now up to fourth at 97 points off the pace being set by the Walkinshaw Andretti United driver.

That race was a chaotic encounter, livened up by a Safety Car restart, drizzles of rain, and a mix-up of tyre compounds, as well as featuring a fire and an old-fashioned national flag start.

Van Gisbergen was in the thick of it when he became engaged in battle for the lead with Erebus Motorsport duo Will Brown and Brodie Kostecki immediately after said restart.

Both he and team-mate Broc Feeney ended up on the outside of the Coca-Cola Camaros at Turn 5, with van Gisbergen shuffled all the way back from second to sixth in a matter of corners.

The New Zealander is known for being among the hardest racers in the field, but said he kept something in reserve given the points gap he is trying to make up.

“For me, I did well; I could have sent it at Turn 5 but I was a bit conservative,” he remarked.

“I really need to score every point I can now and if we’re doing that, the guy leading was behind us, so that’s good.

“We’ve just got to keep scoring points and clawing back what got taken off us.”

While van Gisbergen is a potent hunter on the race track, having to do so in the title race has become unfamiliar territory.

He led all the way through the 2021 season before winning Race 1 of 2022, losing the championship lead in Race 2, then regaining it and never ceding it again in Race 3.

What is also unfamiliar for van Gisbergen is being the one on the receiving end of hard racing.

When Brown drove Car #9 down the inside of Turn 3 on the restart lap, van Gisbergen went to the outside and was forced well wide on exit, allowing Kostecki to get the run which resulted in #97 dropping from second to sixth.

The Triple Eight pilot had no complaints about that, even if he did suggest Brown may have jumped the start.

“I just got an average start, although the other guy got a bit better one; maybe he went before the flag fell,” said van Gisbergen.

“But I learnt from the first one with Brodie into Turn 3; I went around the outside and then on the restart I was sort of damned if I did, damned if I didn’t.

“I didn’t know where to go but, if I went to the inside, Will would have just blocked me up and Brodie gone around, so I went for it and he ran me off the road but I would have done the same to him.”

Kostecki’s win, his first in the Supercars Championship, sees him consolidate second place in the standings at a reduced, 11-point deficit relative to Mostert.

UPDATE: 16 points due to James Courtney penalty

Qualifying for Race 5 and Qualifying for Race 6 take place tomorrow from 09:05 local time/AEDT.

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