Shane Van Gisbergen has confirmed he will make the swap from tarmac to dirt and contest this year’s inaugural City of Auckland Rally and Battle of Jack’s Ridge.
The unique event will feature stages from Rally New Zealand which the World Rally Championship cancelled earlier in the year due to coronavirus-induced travel complications.
The event has enticed several large names in New Zealand motorsport, including ex-WRC event winner Hayden Paddon and eight-time national Speedway champion Michael Pickens. Now, the 2016 Supercars champion is the next Kiwi driver to announce he will tackle the two-day rally.
It will be a welcome return for Van Gisbergen who hasn’t stepped into a rally car since his junior career.
But Shane’s father, Robert, was a prominent name on the domestic rally scene and he is hoping some of his father’s skills will be translated down to him in time for the event.
“I’ve always been into rallying and wanted to try it, that’s where my dad’s background is,” Van Gisbergen told Stuff.
“We always come back to New Zealand in December and the racing has all finished and there’s nothing to do.
“That’s good, to have a bit of a break, but this year with it being such a weird year and finishing early, there’s an opportunity to do some racing in New Zealand.
“So I’m trying to race everything I can, but it sounds pretty cool to come and do the rally.
“I think it will be a good show, there will be some awesome cars there and hopefully we’ll get a big crowd.”
However, the Red Bull driver is keeping his prospects of winning low and he doesn’t expect to be troubling the leaders at the head of the timesheets.
“I’ve got no expectations for [the rally],” he added.
“I don’t expect to be anywhere near the top of the time sheets, I’ll be learning my way and straight into the deep end.”
Over the Supercars lockdown period amid the global pandemic, Van Gisbergen competed in the virtual World Rallycross championship. Battling against the likes of defending WRX champion Timmy Hansen, the Kiwi scored two round wins and only lost the title due to missing an event because of a clash with a Supercars round in Sydney.
Similarly, Van Gisbergen is well known for his frequent tilts at drifting and he suggested the corning skills he has honed at the drift track could come in handy for his foray into rallying.
“I guess it’s a bit of car control, but you’re still trying to go as fast as you can, so it’s in between both of them really.
“You want to get a bit sideways, but not too much so you’re losing time. When you watch the rally on board cameras it’s jaw dropping how those guys attack, not knowing what’s around the corner.”
Van Gisbergen will have to undergo two weeks of mandatory managed isolation upon his return to New Zealand. He said he will likely fly home the day following the Bathurst 1000 on October 18.
The City of Auckland Rally will be held on Saturday 14 November and include stages in the Kaipara Hills, Puhoi and Riverhead Forest. The Battle of Jack’s Ridge, meanwhile, will be a standalone rally sprint on Sunday 15 November.
Spectators will be allowed at the event and the Battle of Jack’s Ridge will also be broadcast live on Sky Sport.