Not content with his considerable lead in the 2022 Repco Supercars Championship, nor his fifth in class finish at the Le Mans 24 Hour race just last weekend, 2020 Bathurst winner Shane van Gisbergen (SvG) has announced he is entering the Copthorne Bay of Islands Far North Rally.
This is not SvG’s first time on the gravel. He finished 15th overall and first two-wheel drive at the City of Auckland Rally in 2020 driving his father’s Ford Escort and followed up the next day by winning the inaugural Battle of Jack’s Ridge in the Ralliart NZ Mitsubishi Mirage AP4. An astonishing 2nd overall at the National Capital Rally in Australia earlier this year was Shane’s first rally in the Race Torque Skoda Fabia R5 that he will be driving at Far North Rally on July 2nd.
These successes have rekindled a strong interest in rallying that developed in his early years watching his father Robert (Cheese), an accomplished rally driver in his own right.
SvG is using this rally as a chance to get more comfortable in the Skoda and improve his rally communications process with Australian co-driver Glen Weston. The Copthorne Bay of Islands Far North Rally regulations do not allow reconnaissance but uses pre-prepared computer-generated safety notes that give crews information on every corner and straight along the 150 kilometres of special stages.
The Far North Rally will no doubt help van Gisbergen to prepare for his WRC debut at Repco Rally New Zealand starting 29th September in Auckland.
The Supercars Champ is taking his familiar laid-back approach into his NZ campaign.
“I’m fizzing”, van Gisbergen said, “I loved the Auckland Rally a couple of years ago and the chance to shakedown this car and get more seat time before Repco Rally NZ is too good to turn down. The Skoda is due in New Zealand any minute now and, although we have limited preparation time, I’m ready to go and excited about this opportunity to increase my gravel experience. I have heard the heavily cambered roads are some of the best in the country. So yes – this will be exciting.”
Far North Rally Chairman, Bob Mitchell said “This is a real coup for the Copthorne Bay of Islands Far North Rally. Having someone of Shane’s mana entering our event is great news for the organising team, our sponsors, competitors, and spectators. We were expecting the rally to be really positive for the Far North. The interest generated locally and internationally with the addition of Shane to the entry list will bolster this.”
So why would an international star in multiple motorsport disciplines want to travel 14,000 kilometres from Le Mans to Darwin then another 5,000 kilometres to Paihia in the space of just a month?
Van Gisbergen sums it up in just four words…
“I think I’m hooked”