A Bathurst 12 Hour winner, Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup champion, and Virgin Australia Supercars Championship title winner—Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen is well versed in the world of motor racing. It is perhaps a bit of a surprise that the 28-year-old isn’t so fond of his next big challenge.
There are corners all around the globe that require drivers to pull their belts just that little bit tighter on approach. Taking ‘The Chase’ at 300kph around Mount Panorama for 161 laps is standard issue for van Gisbergen, but taking turn one at Pukekohe Park sideways at 200kph is going to be a whole new task to tackle.
This weekend the Link ECU D1NZ National Drifting Championship rolls into Auckland for the grand finale. Pukekohe Park plays host to the D1NZ Pro and Pro-Sport Series where drifters will try to get upwards of 200kph sideways in their purpose-built drift weapons.
When van Gisbergen was confirmed to join the series for selected rounds of the 2018 calendar, there was one that stood out for him.
“I told Brendon White (D1NZ Category Manager) a few times I wasn’t interested in Pukekohe, it’s sort of too fast,” van Gisbergen said.
“Driving into that corner and going sideways on purpose at 200kph is going to be a bit of a shock to the system I think. It’ll be pretty awesome, I’m looking forward to that one.”
On his return to the series at ASB Baypark Stadium in Tauranga, van Gisbergen experienced the highs and lows of drifting competition. On his first run the Supercars veteran lay down an impressive score, notable given he’d not even practiced on Friday and only arrived at the circuit on Saturday morning.
He went on to battle reigning champion and good friend Cole Armstrong. The V Energy-backed drifter got the better of van Gisbergen in the top-16 battle, but it was a close call that only just saw Armstrong go through.
He’s been away from the drifting scene for several years, instead focusing on drives in the Supercars Championship with leading outfit Red Bull Holden Racing Team. Among other drives in Europe and North America, van Gisbergen hasn’t had the time to drift. With calendar clashes this year in the IMSA and Blancpain GT Series, it opened a door for his return home.
The drifting scene is in stark contrast to the circuit racing world in which he resides. However, it’s a refreshing return with comradery so prevalent in the drifting series.
“That’s the best thing about drifting, everyone gets along and everyone encourages each other so much. We saw that at Wellington when people were crashing and the drivers who they crashed with were helping them.
“That doesn’t happen in many other sports. Drifting with all those guys that I used to look up to, Gaz Whiter and Cole Armstrong and ‘Fanga’ Dan, it’s pretty awesome that they’re still in there. Hopefully I can jump back in an have a play with them. It’s been a few years!”
The Link ECU D1NZ National Drifting Championship final takes place at Pukekohe Park over May 12-13. For more information visit D1NZ.com. Tickets are available via iTicket.co.nz