Mark Horburgh


New Zealand’s three V8 Supercars drivers will set out to break the Kiwi hoodoo in 2014, starting with the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide in two weeks.

No New Zealander has won the V8 Supercars Championship since 1991, when Jim Richards won his fourth and final series, however, on the back of a season in which Shane van Gisbergen, Fabian Coulthard and Scott McLaughlin all finished inside the top ten overall, there is optimism amongst the Kiwi ranks.

That optimism was heightened when Coulthard topped all cars on the opening test day at the Sydney Motorsport Park at the weekend. Coulthard impressed with a 1min30.47sec flying lap, heading to the Clipsal 500 Adelaide with confidence after a successful 2013 where he won his first race and finished sixth overall.

“We ticked a lot of boxes last year with race wins, pole positions and my best championship since I started my career so it’s all been pretty good,” said Coulthard, who first raced V8 Supercars in 2004.

“I think having the self-belief now that we have and we can beat everyone on the same day helps with the psychological battle more than anything. I’ve won a few races now and that’s something I really would like to make more common.

“We are ironing out a few weaknesses from last year which could put us more in the championship hunt this season.”

Compatriot van Gisbergen was the best of the New Zealanders finishing fifth in the Championship but is keen to go further.

“We started the 2013 season with a win and ended up having a pretty good year. This year we’ve downsized to one car and having all of the resources in the one basket now, I think we’ve definitely got a shot at the championship,” said 24-year-old Van Gisbergen.

“We’ve shown that we can win races but we also made a few mistakes last year, myself in the car and also the team in the pits, so once we fix those and learn from them, I think we can take it to these guys all year.

“Some of the guys have been saying they haven’t been in the car since the final round last year, whereas I’ve only had three weeks off since September so I think I’m probably the most race-fit I’ve ever been going into the start of a new season.

“I don’t like to set goals but in saying that, I’ve been around long enough now that I’ve got to shoot for the top this year.”

The third Kiwi also turned heads last year, when he became the youngest race winner in the category’s history at Pukekohe Park Raceway. McLaughlin trades in his Holden for a Volvo in 2014 but will be hoping for more of the same success.

“I think we set some pretty high standards by winning a few races [in 2013], but at the end of the day we’ve gone to a new manufacturer and everyone is aware of what comes with that,” said the 20-year-old.

“Last year I was able to show what I could do with a pretty good car. This year we’re stepping into the unknown so if we do get bad results at least it won’t all be thrown on my shoulders, but at the same time I’m positive that we’re going to go pretty good.”

The one thing all three New Zealanders want is success when the Championships heads home to Pukekohe Park Raceway for the ITM 500 Auckland over Anzac weekend on 24-27 April.

Sports Media NZ

NZ Motor Racing [info@sundaybusiness.co.nz]