Shane Van Gisbergen is, without doubt, my single favorite driver in tin-top motor racing right now. He has the talent to wring a lap time from a car, to do things on fresh tires other drivers didn’t think were possible, and flex his muscle behind the steering wheel. He’s a bit brash in his tactics, and he usually makes low percent moves that put him in harm’s way, but more often than not he lucks out on the winning side of those losing bets. Perhaps he’s a bit reminiscent of a modern day James Hunt, in that he puts it all on the line and will either win it or bin it trying. This weekend was perhaps the exception that proved his rule. A run at the 12 Hours of Bathurst had him in the lead with just an hour to go with a hard-charging Ferrari behind. It all ended in tears for SVG, and amazed disappointment for his teammate Maro Engel. Click the jump to see the full story.
Amazing moves like these decisive moves through traffic are what pulled SVG up to the front of the race, where he and his car stayed for most of the 12 hours.
Two cars on the lead lap after eleven of twelve hours, SVG in the Mercedes, Jamie Whincup in the Ferrari. Whincup dipped into the pits from the lead just before the hour mark to grab fresh tires and fuel, handing the lead to Shane with a decent gap. The Mercedes needed fuel, however, and a few laps later peeled off to pit lane for a fresh top up of high test. The HTP Mercedes team, however, decided not to fit the car with new tires opting instead to get the car out ahead of the Ferrari. That was where it all started to go south for SVG.
A couple of laps into the final stint, Whincup’s tire advantage caught him up to the back end of Shane’s Merc. When Shane caught slower traffic across the top of the mountain, Jamie made his move. Down the Conrod Straight it was an all-out drag race that nearly saw contact and Whincup put two wheels into the dirt making the pass stick. SVG slotted in behind and immediately began planning his attack. Even on worse tires, his Mercedes was faster through the tight technical stuff than the Ferrari was, though the Fezza had the legs on the Merc down long straights and immediately stretched a gap.
Fighting with a slower classed Porsche GT3 for track position in an attempt to scramble back up to the lead, the Merc shoved its nose a little too deep into the bumper of the Porsche. It would appear that it was just driver miscommunication with the Porsche lifting when the Merc throttled out, and no ill will was actually intended, but the consequences were dire. As you can see in the video below.
This brought out a caution and returned Shane’s car to be immediately behind Jamie’s car. Of course, the crash was still under investigation as they went to the green flag, so Shane was pushing as hard as he possibly could. He was really hustling the car around the track, but then he had a second mistake in quick succession, this one taking his own car out of the race. Taking too much curb, the Merc’s long nose was slightly shortened by the wall, and coolant was leaking out everywhere. Perhaps just seconds before the crash the stewards of the race had determined SVG deserved a drive-through penalty for the prior Porsche incident, but he had not yet been informed by the team of the decision, as it turns out, it needn’t have mattered.
Then, of course, Maro Engel had this to say about his teammate.
It’s a bit harsh, but when Shane is off his game, it doesn’t seem like he can convince himself to settle down and take second. Perhaps that’s why I love his driving.
What’s your take?