New Zealand’s Shane van Gisbergen has become the first Kiwi to clinch an Australian Supercars championship since 1991 after rallying from a poor start at the Coates Hire Sydney 500 to finish third.
191 points clear of Red Bull Racing teammate Jamie Whincup entering the Sydney finale, van Gisbergen’s chances of taking the title during Saturday’s race took a hit when he was penalized by the series for making contact with 2015 champion Mark Winterbottom. Having spun the Ford with his Holden, van Gisbergen was called to the pits for a drive-through, which could have pushed the championship outcome to Sunday.
Despite the early setback, the 27-year-old, who also races in IMSA and the Blancpain series, tore through the field and recovered to land the final spot on the podium. With the result, van Gisbergen closed Saturday at Sydney with a 170-point advantage over Whincup, and with 150 points on offer for Sunday’s season closer, the internecine championship fight was settled.
“Pretty amazing feeling. Sorry to Mark,” said van Gisbergen (pictured at left, with Whincup). I went up the inside and didn’t commit. As soon as I went up the inside, I thought, ‘I didn’t go in hard enough.’ It was his right to turn in – my fault.
“Awesome car, good racing, what an amazing year. It’s a pretty awesome day.”
Whincup expressed no regrets after falling short.
“We gave it our all, like we have all year,” he said. “Congratulations to Shane and his crew; the championship goes to who’s most consistent and they’ve been consistent all year.”