I don’t pretend to have a close relationship or friendship with Shane van Gisbergen, though I have known him since he was a teenager racing in Formula First as it’s known today.
Yet, strangely, I think I understand him better than most. I emphasise with his shy nature with people that are not close and trusted friends; I understand his reluctance to trust the media, as he said in a press conference following yesterday’s emphatic comeback victory at the notoriously difficult Newcastle street race, “Like, I tried to just knuckle down and focus and then I’ve said a lot of stuff yesterday, tried to open up a bit more and then it’s bitten me in the arse.”
He does not trust the media not to try to make capital of anything he says, so rather than risk telling anybody, except his most trusted friends, what he really thinks, he prefers to stay silent, even to the point of appearing sullen.
Of course, there’s an irony in publishing my opinion, but I do so in solidarity with one of New Zealand’s greatest-ever racecar drivers. At the end of the day, that’s what he is. Van Gisbergen is a racecar driver. His media “obligations” have only come because of his successes. But as he said: “all the talking was done on the track.”
SVG wears his heart on his sleeve in every respect, what you see is what you get, and his intensity and singular focus on the end game make him the outstanding driver he is today.
Daniel Herrero of Speedcafe is to be congratulated for his incisive article on the aftermath of last weekend’s Gen3 controversial debut, writing:
“Is van Gisbergen really to blame? Shane van Gisbergen has been roundly criticised for his uncooperative performance in the latest Newcastle post-race press conference – but whose fault is it really?
The Triple Eight Race Engineering driver’s behaviour towards emcee Chad Neylon and journalists such as Speedcafe.com’s Mat Coch after his victory in Race 2 of the season could reasonably be described as arrogant.
However, that would be a superficial reading of the situation.
Van Gisbergen was hardly the only driver who was unwilling to speak openly in a press conference during the weekend, or indeed on the record to journalists on any number of other occasions of late.
Seated to the New Zealander’s left was David Reynolds, who is normally prone to talking himself into trouble, but even he appeared nervous about being completely open.
As van Gisbergen continued to shirk his responsibility to answer questions, he, then Mostert and Reynolds, were asked if they had been given some sort of official instruction or briefing about commentary they might make.
Reynolds’ response was telling.
“They don’t want us to say anything negative,” he said.
When pressed to clarify whether he had been told that, the 2017 Bathurst 1000 winner replied, “I don’t know what to say,” before attempting to offer a defence of Gen3.
Who ‘they’ is, was not specified.“
SVG is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t speak his mind about the concerns he has with Supercar’s new Gen3 race car. This is compounded by the fact that his team, his employer, is singularly responsible for the design of the new car’s architecture. This fact is also exacerbated by his relationship with Jessica Dane, the CEO of Triple Eight Race Engineering.
It’s little wonder that Shane is wrestling with the dilemma he now finds himself in.
It’s entirely my opinion, but I believe that if he wins or loses the 2023 Supercar Championship this year, it will be his last year in the Australian Championship. I predict that SVG will be in NASCAR land sooner rather than later, if not NASCAR, then in GT racing, perhaps with Triple Eights Mercedes AMG connections.
This article comes off the back of a heated press conference following yesterday’s Newcastle 500, which has been viewed to be taken out of context, including on live television. That conference is embedded below, and we strongly suggest you watch it in its entirety to paint a complete picture. Ed.
Supercars’ official publisher, Supercars.com, is yet to address this conference but does have a link to the video on their page.