Our latest Ask a Pro is New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen, V8 Supercars, GT and drift racer. See his answers here.
Shane Van Gisbergen
V8 Supercars, GT and drift racer
Shane van Gisbergen is one of the most celebrated talents in the ultra-competitive V8 Supercars championship. The New Zealander made his series debut at just 18 years of age and is widely tipped to be one of the main challengers for this year’s title.
From the age of five, when he persuaded his father to buy him an ATV, he has been on course for racing stardom. He spent his early life racing ATVs on motocross tracks and quarter midgets on speedway ovals, before enjoying a brief and typically successful stint in karts.
Thanks to a scholarship from SpeedSport magazine, he spent a year honing his road racing skills in the Formula First series, an entry-level category designed to help young karters make the leap to more powerful machines.
From there on out, he continued his meteoric rise through the racing ranks, winning the 2006 New Zealand Formula Ford Championship and finishing a close second in the 2007 Toyota Racing Series. Later that year he signed a contract with Stone Brothers Racing, making his V8 Supercar Championship debut that August at Oran Park.
In 2013, he signed for TEKNO Autosports, racing his Holden VF Comodore to a career-high second in the 2014 championship, winning an impressive eight races along the way.
Shane Van Gisbergen answers your questions!
How do you prepare for driving different types of cars on different tracks around the world? What challenges did you face jumping into the 24 Hours of Daytona and how did you adapt?
Hi Alberto, I like to use Simulators. iRacing is the best by far nowadays so I use that a lot. I struggled mainly at night in Daytona 2014. It was my first time racing at night so I struggled at the pre event Roar test. I went back on to iRacing and practiced at night to find some braking markers and when I came back for the race I was right on the pace. Daytona is all about the traffic though and learning how to let cars through and make passes while being economical with your time.
Hello Shane! Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. When you go to a completely new track and it is raining, what steps do you take to learn everything as quickly as possible? Do you learn the track first or learn how to race in the rain first? And how do you pass in the rain?
Hi Jonathan, no Problem. Best to always do a track walk and take note of the surface. It’s really easy to see where the grip is going to be in the rain. Look at the wear of the road and how much rubber is down etc. so as you know if the grip is going to be on line or off. Passing in the rain is easy if you know where the grip is. Most of the time gain in the rain is under braking I find. Always turn the brake bias to the rear in the rain if possible.
What is your view on trail braking?
Hi Michael, hard to say. It is so car and corner dependant. In a V8 you have to do it because you have no aero, bad tyres and a lock diff so you run a lot of rear braking and run it into the corner so that it acts as a handbrake to get you round. Trail braking is just manipulation of the car really in my view. In some cars when I’m comfortable I get my braking done in the straight then just clear the brake and roll the centre with big mid corner speed.
I just want to know your opinion on the importance on hitting the apex? Can I afford to miss it from time to time?
Hi again, another good question. I have missed a lot of apexes in my time and that doesn’t make me happy! It always depends on the corner or what corner is following it but 99% of the time you have to try hit it.
Hi, I am karting in local competitions but how do you make it to bigger national or maybe even international competitions? Thank You
Hi Baptiste, I was quite lucky how I got into car racing. I was still racing quad bikes a lot and very competitive at it but at the same time struggling with karting. I ended up winning a scholarship to race a season of Formula Vee where I had a great driver coach to help me transition and learn how to properly drive and race. Results help!
You made your professional debut at just 18 years old, what factors do you think contributed to ‘making it’ at such a young age?
Hi Malcolm, a lot of things. Mainly speed, results and meeting the right people!
What are your ultimate career goals and how do you aim to achieve them?
Hi Sarah, same as it has always been: win the V8 Supercars Championship. It is all about experience and not making mistakes. ‘No Mistakes’ its written on my fridge. I read it every day and I just have to apply it now.
You drift, race V8 touring cars and have just signed to drive for McLaren’s GT team in Europe. If you had to choose just one, which would it be and why?
Hi Joe, that’s a hard question. So many different aspects of each class and way of driving, which is why I do them all as I feel it helps me become a better driver by experiencing different cars, engineers, teams etc. V8’s has the best drivers and the best racing, GT the best cars, and drifting the most fun… Hard to choose!
If you could change one thing about world motor sport, what would it be?
Hi Muhammad, I’m not too sure, I like how it is. I think when I was younger there was a lot more Scholarships and cheaper junior formulas for people to get started and also to get noticed. It’s very expensive now and that prohibits a lot of talented kids from progressing so that would be something I would change.
When you do a track walk before a race, what are you looking out for and how do you apply what you’ve learnt in the car?
Hi Oscar, there are always different surfaces on tracks so seeing what has the most grip. You can see the bumps and kerbs close up and I like to look for brake markers which I can use in the car. Sometimes I redo the track walk during the weekend if I’m struggling with a particular corner just to try get my head around it.
There hasn’t been a New Zealander in an F1 race seat for a long time, why do you think that is?
Hi Luke. Money.
If you could go back and give your 12 year old self racing advice, what would it be?
Hi Tony, I used to do some crazy stuff when I was 12, I remember pulling some big moves on the track that I wish I could still do now haha! Maybe I would say ‘learn to know when the ship is sinking’.
What’s you favourite race on the V8 Supercar calendar and why?
Hi Shaun, Bathurst, no doubt. It’s such an amazing race. The paddock is full of fans on the Wednesday when we arrive and the track is brilliant. It blows my mind every year on the track walk that we race there. It’s just so steep especially coming down the mountain. I enjoy the stints in the middle of the race when everyone is just logging laps and your just cruising on your own. It’s such a nice track to just enjoy driving. Although, the last 20 laps are normally pretty intense!
How will signing to race GT cars impact your schedule? Is there a risk it will impact your V8 championship chances?
Hi Carlo, yes and no. The only negative is the travel. For two races I have to return from Europe to race V8 the week after so the jetlag may be a problem. But otherwise it’s no issue.
What are the best and worst things about being a racing driver?
Best – perfect laps
Worst – travel
I am a kart racer and I was wondering when you were in karts how did you figure out how to be faster and start winning races consistently? Or did it just click for you?
Hi Myles, I had been racing a lot of things before I started Karting. I was 13 when I started and mainly moved to karting to learn racing lines etc. I was never very good at it because I was overweight due to my height, but it did make me good in the wet because of my high centre of gravity giving me more grip! Probably not until I got into race cars when I really started to learn race craft.
What’s it like changing from a drift car to a race car? One you have to get sideways, one you don’t!
Hi there, it’s quite easy actually. The disciplines are so different that nothing crosses over so it’s ok to go between them.
In comparison to the other forms of motor sport that you currently and have competed in, how focused and technical do you have to be as a driver when competing in drifting? Is it comparable, or is drifting just about hanging the rear end out and having fun?
Hi Daniel, good question. Drifting is something I only do for fun. It’s what I do on my weekends off. You do have to make the car comfortable and competitive but some of the most enjoyable battles and most fun I’ve had I’ve ended up losing. Drifting is not about winning for me just having a good time!
How is it that the Aus V8 supercars run so close for so long? I haven’t seen such close racing in any other series. Are the cars spec’d that closely?
Hi Bob, yes it is a parity series so that’s why all the cars are so close. The development allowed is so little. As a driver it’s very rewarding because sometimes in qualifying the top 20 is separated by .5 so it’s a cool feeling when you get it right. Although it punishes small mistakes!
Hey Shane, as someone studying Mechanical Engineering and a big V8SC fan, what do you think would be the best way to get involved with working with a race team?
Hi Kalem, good stuff, good to hear. If you’re in Australia your best bet is to get to a round, start introducing yourself and handing your CV out. Or if you’re overseas most teams have contact emails on the websites just start emailing and telling them your experience and what you’re about.