There was a time when Shane van Gisbergen’s much-vaunted move to Red Bull Racing Australia in the V8 Supercar championship looked to have put his role with McLaren GT in jeopardy. The Kiwi enjoyed a promising debut season in the Blancpain Endurance Cup at Von Ryan Racing that yielded wins at Silverstone and the Nürburgring, but with two date clashes in 2016, there was some doubt as to whether Roland Dane would see any value in releasing his new charge for a part-season campaign in Europe.
Thankfully, Dane didn’t stand in his way and how glad he will be for it. Nothing beats a confident driver in form and Dane will only reap the rewards from having Van Gisbergen return fresh from a closely-fought victory at Monza with Rob Bell and Come Ledogar.
“It very exciting there at the end!” Van Gisbergen told Racing.GT after the race. “The traffic was very frustrating with the slower cars, but that’s the way it is and [Buhk] had the same. It was a cool battle to be a part of, he had some big goes but just couldn’t get it done in the end. I wasn’t going to let him past!”
It made for a stark contrast to his last visit to Monza a year ago, where the McLaren 650S made a rather understated debut. After qualifying in 27th, Van Gisbergen – who was new to the circuit as well as the car – Bell and Kevin Estre eventually finished a forgettable 16th, but lessons learned from that weekend played a vital role in paving the way for their success.
“Knowing the circuits and knowing the car now, it’s so much easier the second time around,” he continued. “It just saves you so much time. I’ve gone over all the notes from last year and straight away in practice one I was on the pace again, so there’s some potential there for some more good results.”
Having also broken the lap record en-route to victory in the Bathurst 12 Hour earlier in the year, the McLaren has shown itself to be capable of winning on completely different circuits, a fact which bodes well ahead of the next Endurance Cup round at Silverstone in May.
“It’s amazing, the variants of track are so different from Bathurst, so to get a result at a track like this is pretty impressive for the team,” van Gisbergen added. “I’m really excited about that and with Silverstone coming up, that’s another place where we’ve had a good result, so we should be able to get straight onto it and hopefully compete at the front.”