Two of Australia’s motorsport icons believe Shane van Gisbergen will be a multiple Supercars champion.
But Mark Skaife and Jim Richards warn it won’t be easy in the face of rising stars, hungry veterans and his own personal demons.
Van Gisbergen claimed his first title at the season-ending Sydney 500 at the weekend, 10 years after making his debut in the series.
His switch from the family-run Tekno Autosports to Holden powerhouse Triple Eight – backed by Red Bull – proved fruitful in his first year, beating teammate and six-time champion Jamie Whincup.
Skaife, once critical of van Gisbergen’s inconsistency, said his new team had mentored him well.
“In Triple Eight he’s clearly competitive week in, week out,” the five-time champion told AAP.
“Is he fast enough? Yes. Is he totally focused and committed? Absolutely yes. Has he been able to put the year together? Yes.
“So there’s no reason why he won’t win again.”
Richards, the winner of four Australian touring car titles and the last Kiwi victor before van Gisbergen in 1991, agrees.
“He may win one or two more. He may even decide to go overseas and ply his trade in the GT series over there and go do bigger and better things. Who knows?” Richards told AAP.
But both acknowledge it will be a mighty feat.
They predict Whincup will be fired up to win an unprecedented seventh title after missing out the past two seasons, and with young star Scott McLaughlin on another level once he switches to DJR Team Penske.
There’s also Ford’s Mark Winterbottom, last year’s champion, and 2010 champion James Courtney.
“It’ll be very very hard because the competition is so tough at the front,” Richards said.
Skaife flagged motivation and fatigue as another hurdle for van Gisbergen, who dabbles in other categories in his spare time.
“He’s driving lots of cars, which is fantastic, but at some stage that has a bearing on your level of effort,” he said.
“It’s almost like fuelling the fuel tank. At the moment I reckon he’s full and he’s driving very well, but it’s very easy for the level of workload and the demands to tax you.
“What he’s got to be conscious of is coming out again in 2017 fresh and invigorated.”
Van Gisbergen on Sunday night recommitted to Supercars “for the foreseeable future” and was preparing for a Whincup onslaught.
“Jamie was really fast in a lot of races this year so I need to pick up my game,” he said.
“Now that I’ve found some consistency, I’ve got to search for speed again.”