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Supercars champion to trade tarmac for dirt

Repco Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen will make his debut in the Australia Rally Championship after confirming his participation in the opening round, the Netier National Capital Rally.

After signalling his interest in racing on the dirt last year, van Gisbergen will pilot a Race Torque Engineering Skoda Fabia R5 at the April 1-3 event, competing against Australia’s best rally drivers including Bates brothers Harry and Lewis in a pair of factory Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia Yaris AP4s.

Rallying is nothing new for van Gisbergen having won multiple rallies in his native New Zealand including the Battle of Jacks Ridge in 2020.

“I just love driving and competing against the best,” van Gisbergen said.

“Rally drivers are the best-of-the-best. You’re driving a car as fast as you can and it’s on gravel, it’s so foreign to me, listening to someone else tell you where to go.

“It’s an awesome challenge and I want to see if I can adapt and get better and better at it and hopefully have a proper go at it.

“This is a great initiation and we’ve got some pretty cool people on board.

“I’ve always grown up with rally, but it’s nerve-wracking to finally be in the national series in a proper car. I’ve dipped the toe in the water in New Zealand… but to do a Championship round is going to be pretty tough to jump straight in.

Van Gisbergen has ruled out completing the season as his rally preparations includes plenty of work on the simulator before attending the ARC media day on March 8 where he and experienced co-driver Glen Weston will get acquainted before the National Capital Rally.

“I won’t be doing the whole Championship, but I’ll go and do the first round and have some fun,” van Gisbergen said.

“I’ll try and study as much film as I can to see the roads and see how people approach it. I’ll be playing on my sim a lot, I’ve got a HP Omen at home, I’ll play the DiRT Rally game on that and learn to process the notes, how to approach things and get my brain thinking about that.

“I don’t set any goals, I’ll just go there, have fun and as long as I’m prepared as well as I can and the car runs well, I’ll go and drive and things will happen.

“(One of my idols is) Possum Bourne, he was from just down the road where I was. He was coming over here and smoking all the Aussies, so I always supported him.

“It’s awesome to be part of the Red Bull family and to drive with them in Supercars, but now in rally as well. They are a (Australian Rally) Championship sponsor too, so it’s pretty awesome for them to be supporting the sport and I hope I can represent them well.

“I can’t wait to get out there and throw some stones.”