Thumbs up: Shane Van Gisbergen has come in ahead of Mark Webber and Jamie Whincup in Autosport’s top 50 drivers in the world. He was ranked at number 28. Picture: Getty Images
V8 Supercars champion Shane Van Gisbergen has capped off his best year in motor sport by being named 28th by the respected English Autosport magazine’s top fifty drivers in the world in 2016.
The 27-year-old New Zealander started the year in brilliant fashion winning the Bathurst 12-hour GT race in the Tekno Autosports McLaren 650S GT3 with Alvaro Parente and Jonathon Webb.
He contested the five-round Blancpain GT series Endurance Cup in the Garage 59 McLaren, scoring wins in the Monza three-hour race and the 1000-kilometre race at Paul Ricard. as well as sixth in the three-hour race at Silverstone and eighth in the six-hour race at Spa.
It was enough to win the championship and finish third in the Intercontinental GT Challenge series.
At the beginning of the year, he joined the Red Bull Racing Australia Holden team and was expected to provide solid competition to his team mate Jamie Whincup andend his reign as a six-time V8 Supercars champion.
Over the first 17 races of the 29-race championship Van Gisbergen only had four wins to his credit and three other podium results, and it seemed he would struggleto win his first V8 championship.
He should have won race five at Symmons Plains but a mistake while leading had him bogged in the gravel at the hairpin and he recorded his only failure to finish for the season.
From race 18 at Sydney Motor Sport Park he struck a purple patch, scoring four wins, five seconds and two thirds and, in fact, his only finishoutside the top three was fifth in race number 19 at Sydney.
It was enough to clinch his first V8 title and become the first New Zealand driver since Jim Richards in 1991 to do so.
The only other non-Australian driver to win the Touring Car Championship was New Zealander Robbie Francevic in 1986 in a Volvo 240 turbo.
Van Gisbergen also clinched the Pirtek Endurance championship which was conducted over four races at Sandown, Bathurst and the Gold Coast. He finishedsecond in the Sandown 500 and the Bathurst 1000, and first and second in the two races on the Gold Coast.
His co-driver for those two driver races was Frenchman Alexandre Premat, who despite the doubters, proved to be more than capable of providing solid support for Van Gisbergen.
While positions 1 to 20 of the top 50 drivers in the world is yet to be revealed, Australia’s Mark Webber has been nominated 38th after his final season of racing in the World Endurance Sports Car championship and Jamie Whincup has been nominated at 49.
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