Kiwi star Shane van Gisbergen has fired a warning shot across the bow of his opponents that he is ready to defend his title when the V8 Supercars Championship heads to Hamilton for the final time in three weeks.
The 22 year old finished second behind champion Jaime Whincup in the second race of the weekend at Symmons Plains in Tasmania after finishing fourth in the sprint race on Saturday.
The SP Tools Ford driver now heads home for the ITM400 in Hamilton on 20-22 April in fourth place in the championship, and now just 39 points behind third placed Mark Winterbottom.
Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen in action on his way to runner-up in the latest race in the V8 Supercars championship in Tasmania.. Photo: Mark Horsburgh.
Van Gisbergen was delighted with the effort today.
"We're pretty stoked, today we were pretty good," said the Kiwi on team owner Ross Stone's 59th birthday. "It's a good lift for the boys."
Fellow New Zealander Fabian Coulthard (Lockwood Racing Holden) drove well to move through the packed field from 17th on the grid to finish 11th and retain his spot in the top-10 in the championship.
Whincup overcame an early race spin to win race four of the championship and move back into second place behind Will Davison on the ladder, now just 18 points adrift.
The TeamVodafone driver started from fifth on the grid and after making early ground, he spun on lap seven. Whincup moved back through the field and withstood a late battle with Van Gisbergen to claim the 54th win of his career.
"We had a tough weekend all in all so to come away with that I'm a little bit shocked," said Whincup, who led home five Fords to claim his eighth race win at Symmons Plains – the most of anyone in the championship history.
"It's crazy how this sport works. Nothing went right all weekend and we walk away with a third and a win. I don't want to dwell on the negatives but we'll improve on that. Lucky enough in the spin I nailed it and spun it around!"
Trading Post FPR Ford pilot Davison finished third - but not without drama.
"It was a bit tougher than yesterday's race," he said in a race where he clashed early with pole-sitter Craig Lowndes, the damage putting the TeamVodafone driver out of the race.
"It was a shame to have a touch with Lowndes. I knew he was behind me, I didn't really know where he was. I just felt the hit and that was that."
Stone Brothers Racing had a strong day with Tim Slade fourth and Lee Holdsworth sixth, separated by Winterbottom, who lost his momentum when he stalled during his second pit stop.
New Zealand fans will now look to the streets of Hamilton for the next stop in the V8 Supercars Championship calendar – albeit for the final time - with the hope of iconic kiwi driver Greg Murphy can recover from back surgery last week to take his place on the grid.
Results, race 4, V8 Supercars Championship, Symmons Plains, Tasmania (84 laps):
Jaime Whincup (Team Vodafone Holden) 1:17.26.3867, 1; Shane van Gisbergen (SP Tools Ford) 1:17.31.3871, 2; Will Davison (Trading Post Ford) 1:17.33.0685, 3. Also: Fabian Coulthard (Lockwood Racing Holden) 9.
Points after four races:
Davison 567, 1; Whincup 549, 2; Mark Winterbottom (FPR Ford) 471, 3; Van Gisbergen 432, 4. Also: Coulthard 315, 9.