Shane van Gisbergen admitted to choking back tears after crossing the line to clinch the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy today at the ITM Auckland SuperSprint, becoming the first Kiwi to take the honour.
Richards was loved by the Supercars pit lane, and van Gisbergen became the fourth different winner in as many years to take home the trophy after earning top points across the four sprints held at the Pukekohe circuit.
“The emotional stuff doesn’t happen with me very often, but I choked a few tears back on the in-lap – it was a pretty special thing to win this trophy, no Kiwi’s done it,” Van Gisbergen said.
“Jason – everyone was his friend, he was such a nice guy and, as I said the other day, when I was coming into the series, he was so welcoming and always encouraging. He’d never give me any tips, he’s a racer – always fond memories. To have one of the Jones brothers present the trophy and be in front of the home crowd, it’s pretty awesome.”
He adds the prestigious trophy to the Pirtek Enduro Cup, which he took with Alex Premat after the Gold Coast 600, and with a 197-point lead over teammate Jamie Whincup, is eyeing the Championship trophy, which will be awarded next month after the Sydney finale.
While van Gisbergen didn’t want to get ahead of himself, he already knows how he would celebrate if he gets the job done.
“A big burnout! I’ve won that race three years in a row and have never been allowed to do a skid so hopefully this year.”
He isn’t taking for granted the battle he has ahead with Whincup, but is hoping for a strong haul of points on the Saturday.
“It’s got to happen first, the gap is quite big, but we’ve still got to go there and get a good result, at least on the Saturday to ease the pressure,” he said.
“We did what we set out to do this weekend – no mistakes, four good races and get some good points. We increased the lead; that’s a bonus, so I’m pretty stoked.
“Unfortunately there’s an awkward four-week break,” he added, joking that he had nothing to do given he has flown away to compete in a number of international events earlier this year.
Shane van Gisbergen has become the first New Zealander to take the coveted Jason Richards Memorial Trophy after a solid second place finish in the final race at the ITM Auckland SuperSprint.
Despite finishing behind teammate Jamie Whincup in the fourth race, Van Gisbergen maintains his championship lead, now holding a 191 point advantage over the six-time Supercars champ.
Whincup and van Gisbergen clashed in the day’s first race after a clumsy passing attempt from the #88, though Whincup was the one who lost out with his teammate able to drive up to third.
He bounced back to claim the final win by 8.7 seconds, but was out of the running for the Jason Richards Trophy after finishing 25th earlier today.
Van Gisbergen becomes the fourth different winner in four years of the JR Trophy, which was presented by Richards’ former boss and close friend Kim Jones.
“That’s pretty special to win that trophy, I’m pretty stoked. Thanks to everyone out here … to finally win that as a Kiwi, thank you,” van Gisbergen said.
“I don’t get emotional very often so it is pretty special.”
Whincup took the honours last year, so knows just how it feels to hold up the revered trophy.
“Big congrats to Shane on winning the JR Trophy, most consistent over the weekend – I tried to makes amends for the last race,” Whincup said.
Another Kiwi stood on the podium for the final race, with Scott McLaughlin coming home ahead of Prodrive pair Chaz Mostert and Mark Winterbottom.
It was a tough start for David Reynolds who speared off track and damaged the front of his Erebus Commodore, while another New Zealander, Andre Heimgartner, had to retire with damage.
The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship heads to the finale, the Coates Hire Sydney 500, from December 2-4.