Shane van Gisbergen furore prompts major Mark Skaife move

The reigning Supercars champion was not happy with comments made by Mark Skaife after the Newcastle 500.

Mark Skaife and Shane van Gisbergen.
Mark Skaife says he has made attempts to speak with Shane van Gisbergen, after his criticism of the Supercars champion was not well received. Pictures: Getty Images

After his criticism of Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen over the Kiwi's muted press conference at the Newcastle 500 last weekend, former series champion Mark Skaife has reached out to Triple Eight Motorsport to clear the air. Van Gisbergen refused to answer questions from motorsports journalists about his race two victory after he and Red Bull Racing teammate Broc Feeney were disqualified from the first race, with Skaife offering to visit team headquarters to discuss the resulting furore.

Disqualifying the reigning champion from the first race of the new season was hardly the kind of thing Supercars would have envisioned for the debut of their new 'Gen 3' cars, which have replaced the outgoing Falcons and Commodores. Van Gisbergen was stripped of victory in race one, after it was deemed his team had gone outside the regulations to resolve a cooling issue in the cabin.

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Despite the Red Bull team believing their solution of stuffing dry ice into the driver's side door had been cleared by officials earlier in the weekend, they were disqualified after Van Gisbergen crossed the line first in race one. Under the technical regulations, cooling systems must only be mounted in the passenger door.

Red Bull have indicated they will appeal, while in the meantime a visibly unhappy Van Gisbergen fronted reporters after his race two victory. He refused to answer questions about the disqualification, saying only that he and the team had 'done our talking on the track'.

Skaife and fellow Supercars great Garth Tander had pointed criticism for Van Gisbergen's conduct in the press conference, with Skaife arguing that the Kiwi's standing as a multiple time champion meant he had more of a responsibility to do the right thing by the sport - even under frustrating circumstances. However his comments were met with a heartfelt defence from Van Gisbergen on social media, who said was 'a real kick in the teeth' to hear criticism of his behaviour from Skaife.

Van Gisbergen's post on Instagram attracted support from the likes of former Supercars drivers Scott McLaughlin and Russell Ingall, however Skaife says he's contacted the team to clear the air. He said his commentary after the press conference was purely about the responsibilities a series champion carries - like it or not.

“I normally cop flak from everybody for how much support and how complimentary I am of Shane and his performances,” Skaife said. “Normally when I compliment him on his performances in the car everyone smashes me, saying ‘You’re a Triple Eight fan’ or ‘You’re a van Gisbergen fan’.

“I was making a comment as a Fox Sports commentator regarding what the expectation is of a champion, of an ambassador for our sport. That was simply it. “There was nothing spiteful (intended), I certainly didn’t want him to feel like I had kicked him in the teeth for instance. It wasn’t that.

“I was making a point that there was a responsibility and a duty under the normal conditions that we play in and that was all.”

Shane van Gisbergen fumes after Supercars disqualification

Following the Newcastle 500, Van Gisbergen took to Instagram to explain more about his conduct in the press conference, explaining that he had been raised under the mantra of 'if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all'. He said part of the reason behind his curt responses in the press conference was his belief he had gone too far earlier in the weekend with comments critical of the Gen3 machinery.

“Over the weekend I probably said a bit too much publicly on Friday about the heat of the cars, although it did prove fruitful getting extra cooling for the drivers. Many still struggled, including myself with the heat," he wrote.

"Unfortunately that upset some of the top brass and hence my adopted media strategy for Sunday ‘if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say it at all’. I just knuckled down and drove my arse off on track.

Shane van Gisbergen poses after winning race two of the Newcastle 500.
Despite being disqualified from race one for a technical infringement, Shane van Gisbergen bounced back to win race two at the Newcastle 500. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

“I understand it’s my duty to represent the sport in a good light as Champion, I will do that to the best of my ability by being myself off track, racing hard on track for my team members, team partners and our fans.

“It was a real kick in the teeth hearing those comments from a 5 time champion – someone I look up to and respect. I am not going to pretend it’s all roses when it is not.

Skaife also revealed he had offered to travel to Triple Eight's headquarters in Queensland to discuss the situation personally with Van Gisbergen. He had earlier said van Gisbergen needed to be better given his standing in the sport.

“We’ve been in some pretty tense press conferences over the years … but when you’re the champ, you have an ambassador’s role in this sport," he said. "Although you might not want to make any more comment, you actually have a duty as a custodian of the sport to say what you need to say about the result and what’s gone on today.

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