Fantastic weekend for Kiwi motorsport

By Catherine Pattison on Sat, 10 Dec 2016 | Motorsport
| Image 1 of 1 |
Shane van Gisbergen’s smile says it all as he holds his first Supercars championship winner’s trophy last weekend. Photo: Supplied

Last weekend was a big one for New Zealand motorsport. It saw Shane van Gisbergen win his first Supercars championship title, fellow Kiwi Supercars driver Scott McLaughlin secure third place in the hard-fought Australian championship and Europe-based Kiwi Earl Bamber was confirmed to race for the Porsche LMP1 team.

Van Gisbergen secured his debut Supercars title in emphatic fashion on Saturday in Sydney, working his way from the back of the field to finish third to clinch the title with one race in hand. He then won the final race on Sunday, his eighth of the year.

The Gold Coast-based Aucklander became the first New Zealand driver since Jim Richards in 1991 to win the title, completing a dominant first year with Red Bull Racing Australia.

‘‘It's a lifetime goal [to win the championship] and to finally achieve it is pretty special. I want to come back next year and try to win it again,'' van Gisbergen (29) said.

The battle for third place went down to the wire, with McLaughlin (23) able to record his best result in the Supercars championship as he concluded his contract with Garry Rogers Motorsport. McLaughlin joins fellow Kiwi Fabian Coulthard at the big-budget DJR Team Penske for the 2017 season. McLaughlin also won his second Barry Sheene Medal for the best and fairest driver at this week's Supercars awards ceremony in Sydney.

Also last Sunday, Bamber secured the final vacant seat in next year's Porsche LMP1 premier category line-up. The 26-year-old joins fellow Kiwi Brendon Hartley and Germany's Timo Bernhard in the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid to contest next year's nine-round FIA World Endurance Championship.

MotorSport New Zealand President Wayne Christie was thrilled to see the three drivers achieve international accolades.

‘‘Once again New Zealand celebrates a fantastic, history-making weekend of international motorsport. To have two New Zealanders in the top three of the Australian Supercars Championship is unheralded. Our heartfelt congratulations go to both Shane van Gisbergen and Scott McLaughlin on delivering their finest results to date in the incredibly tough Supercars championship,'' he said.

‘‘To also have two New Zealanders racing for Porsche's World Endurance Championship programme is incredibly exciting. Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber have already achieved so much on the world sports car scene and I'll be one of many thousands of Kiwis watching their exploits in the 2017 season.''

Both van Gisbergen and Hartley graduated from the Dunedin-based New Zealand Elite Motorsport Academy in 2005. Bamber graduated in 2007.