Van Gisbergen – the hollow apology

There is no doubting the extraordinary talent of Shane van Gisbergen, but he is no different to anyone else. We all achieve in life, whether it is public or private. In work, career, sport, with family, at play, at international, national, or club level as we go about life we accomplish. Whatever we do, great or small, each of us decides if it is the achievement itself, or the way it was achieved that is important. The act, the result, or both?

On Saturday having won the opening Supercars race of the ITM Auckland SuperSprint, van Gisbergen deliberately parked his car so close to title rival Scott McLaughlin that McLaughlin couldn’t open his door to get out, until his team pushed his car back. Supercars commentator Mark Sciafe described it as an act of intimidation. It could also be described as an act of bad sportsmanship. It is said that van Gisbergen later apologised to McLaughlin, ““I didn’t even realise I did it until after, it was pretty awkward,” he said!

The thing is, this is typical of van Gisbergen. He has a history of deliberate provocation, followed by an apology of sorts but no modification in behaviour. His apology is just mere words. There often appears no sincerity or remorse, as he has pushed the limits, got caught and an apology is a ‘way-out’.

One could describe this behaviour as a sportsman who is more interested in the end result than how he got there.

It is like a mixture of F1 driver Max Verstappen’s immaturity and the arrogance of the Australian cricket team.

Let’s look at some examples.

Newcastle 2017. Dave Reynolds was in contention to win Saturday’s race before he was passed by eventual winner Shane van Gisbergen on the 72nd lap. His hopes of a podium finish were then dashed when Van Gisbergen forced him into a wall, with stewards slapping the 2016 champion with a 15-second penalty. Reynolds comment was, “….we wouldn’t expect anything less from that dude to be honest.”

Sydney 2016. Van Gisbergen made contact with Garth Tander when he was released from Pitlane. Tander’s comment was “…There was contact, but apparently you can do that now. The rule used to be if you impede a car in the fast lane you get a penalty.”

Sandown 2017. Van Gisbergen was handed a two-place grid penalty for an incident in practice with Fabian Coulthard. Van Gisbergen spun Coulthard’s Shell Ford in the dying stages of Saturday morning’s final practice session (it was a practice session, not a race). Van Gisbergen said after the incident that he felt he’d been brake-tested by Coulthard, but later admitted to careless driving. On race radio immediately after the incident he said, “I spun Coulthard, I didn’t mean too.”

Of the Sandown incident last season, McLaughlin’s Shell V-Power Racing team mate Coulthard commented, “It’s fair to say that we like to be humble in victory and gallant in defeat and perhaps our friends down the pointy end of pit road take a different view on things.”

This is a similar sentiment expressed by McLaughlin this weekend.

Maybe Coulthard has hit on the difference in team culture that allows van Gisbergen to push and break the boundaries.

It is the difference between achieving a result and how it is achieved. It can be the difference between a good and a poor sportsman.

Benjamin Carrell

Benjamin Carrell is a freelance motorsport writer and currently edits both and He writes for a number of Kiwi drivers and motorsport clubs. That's when he's not working in his horticultural day-job or training for the next road or mtb cycle race!

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