Van Gisbergen to make Australian rally debut

Shane van Gisbergen will drive an R5 Skoda in the opening round of the 2022 Australian Rally Championship.

Van Gisbergen to make Australian rally debut

The reigning Supercars champion has been flirting with a part-time ARC campaign since last year, his interest in rallying having been piqued by a successful pair outings on gravel in New Zealand.

Last January he won his class in the City of Auckland Rally driving his father Robert's Ford Escort, which was his competitive rallying debut, before winning the Battle of Jacks Ridge event outright in a Mitsubishi Mirage the following day.

The Kiwi has now signed a one-off deal to drive a Skoda Fabia R5 prepared by Race Torque Engineering at the National Capital Rally in Canberra in April, the opening round of the 2022 ARC.

Experienced co-driver Glen Weston, who has worked with the likes of Scott Pedder, Molly Taylor and Dean Herridge, will partner van Gisbergen.

The pair will work together for the first time at the official pre-ARC season test in Canberra on March 8, two days after the Supercars season opener in Sydney.

“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.

“I won’t be doing the whole championship, but I’ll go and do the first round and have some fun.

“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.”

Motorsport Australia's Director of Motorsport and Commercial Operations Michael Smith welcomed van Gisbergen to the ARC fold.

“Having Shane competing in the opening round of the RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship is a sign of just how strong rallying is right now in Australia,” Smith said.

“We couldn’t be more excited to welcome Shane to the Netier National Capital Rally.

“Motorsport Australia is delighted to have Red Bull’s support for both this initiative and also as a sponsor of the ARC itself. There’s a lot of excitement about our pre-season test day in March, as well as the opening round in Canberra in April.

“No doubt Shane will have his work cut out for him with all of our ARC regulars eager to not let the Supercars champion cause an upset on their home turf. It will be a terrific event for both competitors and spectators.”

The National Capital Rally will take place on April 1-3.

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