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Supercars return to Pukekohe

After false starts in the last two years, starved Kiwi motorsports fans are elated at the return of the ITM Auckland SuperSprint to Pukekohe, none more so than Kiwi Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen, who predicts this year's event is "going to be epic".

On top in 2021 and the current leader in this year's series, Shane reckons the atmosphere at past events at Pukekohe ranks among the most memorable experiences of his life in motorsport.

"The way Kiwi fans get behind the local drivers at home is absolutely incredible; it's an experience you never forget."

The roaring crowd
"Trans Tasman rivalry? It doesn't happen in Australia, but it's really noticeable in New Zealand. I remember one of the best racing experiences I've ever had was at Pukekohe in 2018 when all five Supercar Kiwi drivers made the top 10 shoot out.

"Every time a Kiwi went out, they went to the top of the leader board, and the crowds response was so loud you could hear it above the roar of the engines. It's one of the coolest racing experiences I've ever been part of."

Shane grew up a stones' throw from Pukekohe racetrack but doesn't consider there is any hometown track advantage in a practical sense, "but there is a huge emotional advantage."

"I have raced on that track just as much as everyone else. But being on home soil is a real advantage. Having my friends and family around me and the hometown support, it's a pretty indescribable feeling, and it really spurs you on."

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Shane van Gisbergen

The one to beat
Being the top driver in the Supercars Championship, Shane shrugs off the pressure of being the one everyone wants to beat.

"I don't have expectations and don't really feel any pressure, and I don't ever go racing with expectations. There are 24 guys in the series, and they all go pretty good. I just go out and do the best I can. And whatever happens, happens.

"There are quite a few guys this year who can win. That's the best thing about our series; you never know who will shine when you turn up, and that's what makes it exciting.

"There are quite a few guys who are consistent, then suddenly you get someone out of the blue who randomly steps up when you don't expect it. That's what makes it tough."

Vividly I remember that shoot-out at Pukekohe in 2018…I'll never forget those feelings. I'm so looking forward to that feeling again. It's going to be epic.

Taking on the world
"I've always been a proud fan of what Kiwis are achieving on the world stage. We're such a small country with a smallish motorsport culture, yet we
do amazing things overseas.

"We've always punched well above our weight, and it's getting better all the time. There's a huge wave of new talent coming through, and I look up to them in many ways.

"Greg Murphy was the guy I looked up to when I was growing up. I had a few years of racing against him; he was someone doing really well in what I dreamed of doing as a kid. I've got a lot of work to do to catch up with his achievements. He's a long way up the road. But I'm on my way."

Always a roller coaster
"I've been based in Australia for quite a while now, and many people there think I'm Australian. But I soon put them right.

"Yeah, but I have developed a bit of an Ozzie twang, but once I get back in New Zealand, I'll start talking normally again.

"I've missed my friends and family over the last couple of years with the COVID-19 problems. I missed having dad at the races. He's been my biggest influence, and it will be great to see him at my home track for the first time in three years.

"Racing is always a roller coaster, the ups and downs, and you never really know how it will go. But I vividly remember that shoot-out at Pukekohe in 2018…I'll never forget those feelings. I'm so looking forward to that feeling again. It's going to be epic."