19 Sep 2016

Van Gisbergen takes Supercars Championship lead

6:55 am on 19 September 2016

New Zealand motor racing star Shane van Gisbergen has claimed the lead in the Australian V8 Supercars Championship for the first time.

Shane van Gisbergen

Shane van Gisbergen Photo: PHOTOSPORT

van Gisbergen produced a stunning drive for Red Bull Racing to finish runner-up, glued to the bumper of winner Garth Tander after a dramatic opening race of the endurance series at the Wilson Security Sandown 500 in Melbourne.

With Jamie Whincup's team penalised with a drive-through infringement, and ultimately finish in 13th place, van Gisbergen has overtaken his teammate in the lead of the championship.

No New Zealand driver has won the championship since Jim Richards in 1991.

It was an outstanding day for the New Zealand drivers with three finishing in the top six, after Scott McLaughlin just missed the podium in fourth and Fabian Coulthard raced home for sixth.

All eyes are now on van Gisbergen with the famed Bathurst and then Gold Coast stops remaining before the championship heads across the Tasman for the ITM Auckland SuperSprint at Pukekohe.

After the final rash of fuel and tyre stops today, van Gisbergen found himself more than 12 seconds behind Tander after being held up by a lapped car.

However the front fender panel of Tander's car then came away from the chassis, and officials looked at a potential black flag penalty for the Holden team to correct the problem.

They didn't deem it a safety issue but the resulting drag allowed van Gisbergen to close the gap and was attached to his bumper in a thrilling final lap.

van Gisbergen said he was pleased with the decision.

"I'm glad they let that thing run. It wasn't really safe because it wouldn't have been right to win that way," van Gisbergen said.

"It was exciting at the end. We had a good car but I couldn't run him down. They were driving really well but they obviously had some drag at the end which slowed them up.

"Alex (co-driver Alex Premat) did a great job and now it's on to Bathurst and we are stoked to be second here. And to grab the lead in the drivers' championships is pretty cool."