Can our flying Kiwis take victory at this year's Bathurst 1000? Here are Shane's thoughts on his chances at the mountain in 2018.
It’s the 17-year friendship that has given Shane van Gisbergen ultimate faith he can claim his maiden Bathurst 1000 win alongside rookie co-driver Earl Bamber on Sunday.
The two Kiwis have raced against each other since childhood, but now van Gisbergen is relying on his Red Bull Holden colleague to cram the rule book before this weekend’s premier event that could make or break van Gisbergen’s Supercars Championship hopes.
Bamber makes his Bathurst 1000 debut, having joined van Gisbergen in May at Winton, with the pair placing second behind Jamie Whincup and Paul Dubrell at Sandown last month.
Van Gisbergen leads the Championship points tally but disaster at Bathurst will throw it open to rivals. However, he is confident Bamber — an endurance racer who has won the Le Mans 24-hour race twice in 2015 and 2017 — will not be a liability.
“Definitely not, he’s got a huge amount of experience in endurance races, more than I have, won Le Mans twice,” van Gisbergen said.
“Some of that experience he’s brought along, he’s got good advice on some things we can improve on, and it’s been really cool.
“For him it’s not really an endurance race, it’s only six hours, he races four times that.
“It won’t overwhelm him.
“It’s all the preparation done beforehand. He would have been sent the rule book, been studying all the rules, our restart procedures, all the stuff he’ll through on the day on track.
“Even the driver change rules are different to Europe, how you have to take the belts off, so he’ll be refreshing himself on that.
“And then we’ll be practising all Thursday, Friday, and the practice Saturday too.”
Bamber, 28, and van Gisbergen, 29, crossed paths in New Zealand well before anybody knew they’d be Supercar stars.
“We grew up racing first in go-karts, I was 12, and he was a fair bit better than me,” van Gisbergen said.
“As we progressed to cars we were quite even and pushed each other along, and probably of our era the top guys.
“We’ve been friends ever since, gone on different paths; I went to Australia, he went first to Asia and then the world.
“We’ve always been in contact, and last year we had a shortlist of Enduro drivers we wanted. We wanted to keep Matt Campbell who we had last year but he wasn’t available, so we had a shortlist of a couple and Earl was right up there.
“He came to some races last year, we weren’t preparing to have him as an Enduro driver, just came to hang out and met all the team and came to know everyone.
“Once we worked out he was the top choice the team worked it out with him.
“But being a friend, already having that relationship, made it so much easier.
“You can give him as much advice as I could, get him up to speed, we had a test day before Sandown, we had a full day in the car and got really comfortable.