SVG up there with the best of the best

If his contract and his Triple Eight boss allowed it, Shane van Gisbergen could easily become the Southern Hemisphere’s greatest motorsport all-rounder – if he isn’t already.

Van Gisbergen’s performance last weekend in the City of Auckland Rally and the Battle of Jacks Ridge was simply incredible.

It puts him on a pedestal with drivers of the quality of Jim Richards, Colin Bond and George Fury, drivers who have succeeded in both rallying and circuit racing.

The difference with SVG, though, is that he has made a seamless switch from circuit racing to gravel, whereas Richards, Bond and Fury went the other way.

Revered Kiwi, Jim Richards, started his motorsport career in Morris Marinas and Ford Escort Mk 1s before heading to Australia and becoming a superstar on the circuit.

Bond starred in both, but rallying was always his greatest passion, while Fury was a Datsun/Nissan rally star, then switched to tarmac and famously put a Bluebird Turbo on pole for the 1984 Bathurst 1000 race.

For van Gisbergen to come from tarmac to gravel makes him somewhat of a rarity.

Sure, fellow Holden great Peter Brock did both and had some successes, most notably winning the 1979 Repco Round Australia Trial, but ‘Peter Perfect’ was more of an endurance specialist, rather than a flat out special stage star.

The Kiwi’s performance to finish 15th outright and the first 2WD car home in a Ford Escort RS1800 in the City of Auckland Rally on Saturday was just the beginning.

He beat the experienced Marcus van Klink in his Mazda RX8 by over two minutes, and seemingly took to pace notes and gravel stages like a duck to water.

Shane van Gisbergen – Photo: Geoff Ridder

In Sunday’s Battle of Jacks Ridge, he was clearly the second quickest driver in the field, trailing only Hayden Paddon in his 700 horsepower Hyundai rallysprint special.

When Paddon spectacularly crashed out, SVG took over the lead and drove his Mitsubishi Mirage to a famous victory.

No other driver in our part of the world can claim to have had such success in both forms of motorsport, and certainly not in such a short space of time. Only Robert Kubica, Kimi Raikkonen and Valteri Bottas could match the Kiwi’s performances overseas.

Unfortunately for rallying though, it would appear that van Gisbergen’s time on the gravel will be strictly limited, and perhaps only at the end of the Supercars season each year. And that’s a real shame.

“I would love to do more, but it depends on Supercars stuff,” he said on Sunday.

“Doing fun events like this, one-offs, is what I’ll keep doing. I love it.

“It’s cool to see motorsport in New Zealand like this. There are so many good rally cars, AP4, and everything.”

Shane van Gisbergen

His regular competition events in Australia means that events in New Zealand may be less likely, but if the 31-year old does decide he’s up for more, both countries would no doubt be putting their hand up for his entry.

If I was a rally promoter, I’d be doing everything within my power to get SVG into a competitive car for my event. He may not win, but the promotional value would be priceless.

Then again, he probably would win, and the fact that we’re even having this discussion is proof of just how good he is, and how incredible last weekend’s drives really were.

Peter Whitten

Peter has been the editor of RallySport Magazine since its inception in 1989, in both printed and online form. He is a long-time competitor, event organiser and official, as well as working in the media.

http://rallysportmag.com

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