SHANE van Gisbergen didn’t just win the 2021 Repco Supercars Championship, he dominated it.
Five years after scoring his maiden Supercars title during his first season with Triple Eight in 2016, van Gisbergen chalked up his second thanks to a devastating mix of speed and consistency.
V8 Sleuth digs into the numbers behind a stunning season that enabled the Kiwi to secure the title with a full round remaining; the Repco Bathurst 1000 on December 5.
Qualifying wasn’t van Gisbergen’s strength in 2021. Or was it?
His tally of six pole positions is dwarfed by 11 for Dick Johnson Racing’s Anton de Pasquale, who carried on Scott McLaughlin’s previous mantle as Supercars’ qualifying king.
But it was van Gisbergen’s consistency that did the damage to his rivals this year.
His 4.03 qualifying average is currently the best in the field over de Pasquale (4.57) and Whincup (4.60).
Van Gisbergen has also won the qualifying head-to-head with Whincup, although not by much; he’s out-qualified his retiring teammate 16 times to 14.
Perhaps most impressively, van Gisbergen has only qualified outside the top 10 twice in 2021.
The first occasion was a 17th for Race 3 at Sandown where, despite nursing a recently broken collarbone and at that point undiagnosed cracked ribs, he stormed through to victory.
He also recovered well from a relatively lowly 13th place grid slot for Race 10 at The Bend, carving through to finish third.
Whichever way you slice it, van Gisbergen’s race results in 2021 make for impressive reading.
He’s chalked up 14 race wins from 29 starts, including the first six in succession.
For perspective, that’s eight more wins than his nearest rival de Pasquale in 2021 and six more than his own previous season-best, achieved from 29 races in 2016.
But perhaps even more incredible are the stats that follow; 23 podiums, 24 top five finishes and 27 top 10 finishes.
That’s right, just twice has he failed to finish in the top 10, and both were after miscues by the Triple Eight team in pitlane.
A 13th in Race 12 at Hidden Valley would most likely have been a win without a stuck wheel nut, while a 23rd in Race 25 at Sydney Motorsport Park followed a drive-through penalty for a pit stop infringement.
The latter race did also include a wild spin at Turn 1 but, either way, van Gisbergen has maintained a 100 percent finishing rate and completed every lap of the season to date.
After securing the title in bizarre circumstances through Sunday’s washed-out race, van Gisbergen spoke of the satisfaction of winning a second crown.
“It’s been an awesome year, obviously some challenges early in the year with breaking myself, but the car has been fantastic, the team has always been fantastic, I’m super stoked,” he said.
“It’s my life dream, it’s my life goal. I won the first one and just wanted to do it again and now all I want to do is win it again.
“It’s an awesome feeling, knowing with your group of guys, not just the guys on my car but the whole team, how we’ve been all year.
“With so many changes within the team (engineer David Cauchi moved onto car #97 for 2021 but is among those set to leave at year’s end), to still come out and perform like we did is really cool.”
While critics may point to McLaughlin’s absence from the 2021 field, van Gisbergen says he would have “loved to” have raced his fellow Kiwi this year.
“I was thinking about it – there’s been three guys the last few years and our level has just gone crazy. I had to lift to Scotty, had to lift to Jamie, and we’ve all pushed each other,” he said.
“One of them is gone and the other has got, probably, a lot of outside factors that influence him. Maybe it didn’t. But I’ve got to keep focussed, stay above that level and not drop to everyone else.
“It’s been awesome, this championship the last few years, trying to catch someone and perform to your peak and keep learning. And I think this year I kept getting better.
“I’ve got to keep focussed and keep improving.”
Outside of Supercars, SVG’s 2021 has also included winning the New Zealand Grand Prix and anchoring a three-man driving crew to victory in a BMW M4 at the Bathurst 6 Hour.