Clipsal 500 polesitter Shane van Gisbergen has spoken for the first time about the controversy surrounding his off-season switch from Stone Brothers Racing to Tekno Autosports, rejecting his former employers claims that he had ever declared he would retire from the V8 Supercars Championship.
Speaking with the Daily Telegraph newspaper, the New Zealander revealed that his decision to quit the Stone Brothers Racing (now Erebus Motorsport) team was down to him being unhappy with the environment and the team’s lack of competitive results in 2012.
“I didn’t want to stay somewhere where I wasn’t happy. I was hating life and had to get out,” he said.
“I had big expectations for last year. I started OK and then it was a shambles from there. We all go through bad periods but I didn’t see it getting any better.”
He revealed that the lack of results led to clashes with senior figures in the team, and the the outfit’s impending sale to Erebus and the transition from Ford to AMG would not have given him the platform to win in 2013.
“It wasn’t a happy atmosphere and it was going to get more political with the takeover … the big glitzy stuff with Mercedes,” he added.
He also revealed that he was unhappy with the restrictions that Stone Brothers placed on him when it came to racing outside the V8 Supercars environment. Many of his peers are allowed to compete in other championship series’, a privilege that was denied to van Gisbergen.
“I want a fast race car. I want to race and have fun. I wasn’t allowed to do NZ Super Tourers. I wasn’t encouraged to drive other things. Rather than do another year [under those conditions], I was prepared to go home and do other stuff.”
While van Gisbergen admitted that he hadn’t intended to return to the V8 Supercars Championship in 2013, but that retirement was never on the cards.
“That was put out in the press release at Winton [by Stone Brothers Racing],” he retorted.
“They wanted to put out that I wasn’t in a good way and they said ‘retirement’, not me. [It was] never from my mouth. No one has heard my side and it has all come from other people.”
One item not addressed in the interview are the allegations that van Gisbergen has breached the early-exit terms of his contract with Stone Brothers Racing, which allegedly stipulated that he would not be allowed to race or test for any other V8 Supercars team for the whole of 2013.
His former employer is reportedly considering launch legal action as early as today, which could prevent van Gisbergen starting from pole and taking part in today’s opening 250-kilometre race until the legal wrangling is resolved.
“At the moment there is stuff going on,” he hinted. “But they picked me out of NZ in 2006 and gave me my shot. I have some great memories from that team. I have to thank them for what I have.”
He is well aware that his reappearance on the grid – in Holden colours, for that matter – has upset many fans, and probably his racing peers, who all presented him with a signed bonnet as a parting gift at last year’s season-ending Telstra Sydney 500.
“I know there have been a lot of comments by the drivers. I feel quite bad because they signed it, but at that point I was going home. Things have changed now,” he continued.
“It will take a while to get respect back. None of them have talked to me and this is the first time I have opened up about it.
Hopefully they will understand now. They have only read what is in the press.”
And as for the fans?
“People are on Facebook and social media kicking off and going nuts. I just turned it off. But at the track everyone is excited and positive,” he added.
“Hopefully this will let them know what has happened. I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for me, but I needed a change. People change jobs all the time.”
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