Barely eight weeks after his shock announcement that he was quitting the V8 Supercars Championship and heading for a quieter life in his native New Zealand, Shane van Gisbergen has performed a sensational about-face, announcing today that he will return to the series as a driver for the Tekno Autosports team.
The announcement will attract considerable criticism – not least of which being from his former employers at Stone Brothers Racing, with whom he negotiated an early release from his multi-year contract – but it is ultimately great news for the championship.
The 23-year-old is considered one of the greatest ‘new generation’ prospects in the domestic tin-top scene, and for it to retain a genuine talent will be a relief to many senior figures in the series.
‘The Giz’, as he is affectionately known, will make a switch to Holden after a six-year stint behind the wheel of a Stone Brothers Racing Ford Falcon, with which he has achieved two race wins, both in 2011, when he finished fourth overall in the Drivers’ Championship.
He announced in the week leading up to the Sydney Telstra 500 finale that he would quit the championship, citing personal reasons, which created much fanfare and soul-searching up and down the paddock.
But it seems that a bit of R&R at home has reignited his passion for racing, as he admitted in an interview ahead of today’s announcement.
“Towards the end of last year, I started to lose motivation. The environment wasn’t right and I was struggling to remember why I was racing,” he said.
“It wasn’t a great mindset to be in, so I made the decision to take a break. I spent six weeks back home and was able to recharge my batteries. I had a good hard think about my career and considered my options.
“As part of that, I decided that if I was going to return, I needed a fresh challenge in a new environment, and this is exactly the opportunity I was looking for.
“Tekno Autosports is one of the sport’s up-and-coming teams, and (team owners) Jonathon and Kobe Webb have built a really strong, tight knit team, with guys like (team manager) Bruce Jenkins. Tekno has great staff, and the equipment and resources that you need to win races.”
Van Gisbergen will drive the team’s #97 entry as team-mate to owner/driver Jonathon Webb in an entry sponsored by VIP Petfoods, which moves its sponsorship from Dick Johnson Racing to the Holden outfit.
Despite struggling for sponsorship backing all year long, the Tekno team was a sensational underdog performer for much of 2012. Webb and team-mate Michael Patrizi enjoyed several giantkilling race and qualifying performances over the course of the season. Webb narrowly missed on a podium finish at the penultimate round of the championship at Sydney Olympic Park.