4 Nov 2016

Van Gisbergen and Whincup rivalry heats up

11:22 am on 4 November 2016

Both the main contenders, New Zealander van Gisbergen and his Australian Red Bull Racing teammate Jamie Whincup are writing off their chances of clinching the V8 supercar title as the Pukekohe round of the championship looms this weekend.

SHANE VAN GISBERGEN / ALEXANDER PREMAT (Red Bull Racing Holden). 2016 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000. Virgin Australia Supercars Championship Round 11. Mount Panorama, Bathurst NSW. Friday 7 October 2016.

Shane van Gisbergen in his Holden Photo: Photosport

Van Gisbergen leads the drivers championship by 148 points and with six races left.

If he were to win, he'll become the first New Zealander to do so since Jim Richards won his last title in 1991.

The 27-year-old Aucklander came just one place short in 2014, to the same man he's fighting it out with this year - his teammate and six-time champion Jamie Whincup.

Even in the highly competitive sport, Van Gisbergen said the competition with Whincup is a healthy one, so much so he doesn't even back himself to secure the title this weekend.

"Just got to have some good races and try keep the lead, we'll probably end up fighting it out in Sydney. Jamie's really good here he's not one to give up as well.

"It's going to be hard fought this weekend but to come race at home, I'm looking forward to it," van Gisbergen said.

Shane van Gisbergen.

Shane van Gisbergen. Photo: Photosport

Whincup's equally as wary about his prospects of winning the title.

The multi-time champion clearly knows what it takes to win, but thinks being 150 points behind van Gisbergen with six races remaining is too far a stretch.

He does however expect to give the New Zealander a run for his money in his own back yard.

"We know the rule book, we know what's right and wrong and we just go out there and race hard.

"There's no team orders, there's nothing like that. When we get on track go as hard as we can and try to beat each other."

2014 V8 Supercar Series champion Jamie Whincup.

Jamie Whincup Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Someone who'll be hoping to upset both drivers at Pukekohe is another New Zealander, Scott McLaughlin.

He's currently fourth and has his eyes set on third spot, currently held by van Gisbergen's other teammate - Craig Lowndes.

McLaughlin's the first to admit the championship is out of his reach with just two rounds remaining but said it's great to have another New Zealander at the top.

"Shane's been doing a great job all year, he's been fast and obviously he's been in it long enough now that he's understood how to get more consistency and he's just done a really good job this year.

"If it wasn't me I would definitely love to see another Kiwi like Shane, that would be a good thing for New Zealand for sure."

For how much longer will New Zealand's Scott McLaughlin be driving a Volvo?

Scott McLaughlin Photo: Photosport

One of van Gisbergen's idols growing up - the "King of Pukekohe" Greg Murphy, knows what it takes to win on the big stage - he's won here and at Bathurst four times each.

He said van Gisbergen has the skills, the car and a strong team, to take him all the way.

"I don't think he's thinking about it which is the right way to go because you just can't, you can't focus on that there's just so many variables so he needs to just go do exactly what he does best as fast as he can and keep it natural.

"If it happens, which me and everybody else is hoping he does then it will definitely be something very much to celebrate no question."

So even if van Gisbergen isn't backing himself just yet, the New Zealand racing community is hopeful he'll put the pedal to the metal and return the V8 Championship title back to this side of the Tasman.