Shane Van Gisbergen took just one season with his new team, Triple Eight’s Red Bull Racing Australia, to win the Australian Touring Car Championship.
‘SVG’ got the job done in the first of two races during the Sydney 500, with the event divided into two 250km races over two days.
The 27 year-old Holden Commodore driver only had to finish fifth or better on Saturday to win the championship, and Van Gisbergen brought his #97 car home in third to put the result beyond doubt.
Van Gisbergen backed up his Saturday result with a win on Sunday, but it was far from smooth sailing for the New Zealander to claim his first-ever Supercars Australia championship.
A poor start in the first race saw Van Gisbergen battling to retain fourth into the first corner, and a mid-race incident with outgoing champion Mark Winterbottom earned the Red Bull driver a pit lane penalty.
From there, Van Gisbergen doggedly picked off his rivals one-by-one, continuing his charge back to the front even beyond the necessary fifth-place finish to secure the title.
In finishing third on Saturday, Van Gisbergen beat team-mate Jamie Whincup for the championship crown, with Whincup’s results at the Sydney 500 more than enough to secure a 1-2 for the Red Bull team.
“1-2 was pretty awesome for my first year,” van Gisbergen said.
“It’s pretty awesome; it’s a lifetime goal, to finally achieve it is pretty special. I want to come back next year and try it again. It’s been an exciting year.”
Volvo driver Scott McLaughlin also did enough at the Sydney round to secure third in the championship, relegating Craig Lowndes to fourth and preventing a 1-2-3 finish for the Triple Eight team.
The Sydney 500 for 2016 saw the curtain come down on several aspects of the Supercars series.
Firstly, it was almost certainly the last time the series will compete at the Sydney Olympic Park street circuit, with the final round moving to a new street circuit in Newcastle, NSW, for 2017.
The Sydney 500 also marked the last event for the Holden Racing Team, as its legions of fans currently know it, with the ‘official’ Holden team shifting to Triple Eight from next year.
The event was the last for Volvo as a factory-backed team, and the last for Garth Tander as a HRT driver. Tander has competed for the Holden factory outfit for more than a decade, winning the 2007 championship in the former HSV Dealer Team.
Behind Van Gisbergen, Whincup, McLaughlin and Lowndes in the championship was Will Davison for Tekno Autosports in fifth, and last year’s champion Mark Winterbottom in sixth.
The 2017 Australian Touring Car Championship kicks off with the Adelaide 500 on March 2.
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Results - 2016 Australian Touring Car Championship
- Shane Van Gisbergen - 3368 points - Holden VF Commodore
- Jamie Whincup - 3168 - Holden VF Commodore
- Scott McLaughlin - 2806 - Volvo S60
- Craig Lowndes - 2770 - Holden VF Commodore
- Will Davison - 2589 - Holden VF Commodore
- Mark Winterbottom - 2489 - Ford FG X Falcon
- Chaz Mostert - 2361 - Ford FG X Falcon
- Tim Slade - 2263 - Holden VF Commodore
- Garth Tander - 2252 - Holden VF Commodore
- Michael Caruso - 2239 - Nissan Altima
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