Having the support of a factory Mercedes-AMG driver at Triple Eight strengthens the team’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour effort after ‘battling’ at last year’s event, according to Shane van Gisbergen.
Jamie Whincup has partnered van Gisbergen in the No. 888 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo at the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli season-opener this weekend, with the pair boasting eight Virgin Australia Supercars Championship titles between them.
They are joined in the car for the first time by Mercedes-AMG factory driver Maxi Gotz, who effectively takes over Porsche-bound Craig Lowndes’ seat in the lineup.
AMG Performance teams receive additional support on the technical side from the German manufacturer, with the support for Triple Eight understood to have been stepped up for this year courtesy of Gotz’s role.
Triple Eight struggled for pace in last year’s race and ultimately finished fourth, with van Gisbergen admitting that their issues centered around their lack of “knowledge with the car”.
In the lead up to Bathurst, Triple Eight has undergone an extensive testing program, which included an outing for Gotz.
“Last year we didn’t do that well, the car was a bit of a battle. The preparation [this year] has been amazing; we’ve done a lot of testing; I think we did four days… plenty of laps in the car and testing a lot,” van Gisbergen told Sportscar365.
“Hopefully we’ve got a good car [here].
“That’s part of strengthening that AMG deal. We didn’t really understand the car that much [in 2019]; we raced in Asia last year but we didn’t test much, we didn’t really know what we were doing with set up and direction.
“But having AMG we have a factory driver, so, unfortunately, we lose Craig but with Maxi, his experience understanding the car so much has already helped us a lot.
“At our second test he came to and helped with a few things; it’s cool to have those insights — we just don’t know any different.
“Just the knowledge of the car because I’m relatively inexperienced in that car knowing what changes to do and he’s onto everything, he drives them every week.
“I spend half the time adapting back to the car from a V8, so it’s good to know.”
Triple Eight team principal Roland Dane also highlighted the importance of AMG’s support for Bathurst.
“They’ve given us a lot of support to be here which is good and also a driver which is part of the deal because he’ll go on to do Intercontinental GT Challenge as a whole,” Dane told Sportscar365.
“It’s positive and it’s helpful, definitely.”
LMP2 van Gisbergen’s “Best Way” of Getting to Le Mans
Van Gisbergen arrives at Bathurst having had a busy start to 2020, including the Roar Before the 24, Asian Le Mans Series at The Bend Motorsport Park and last weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The New Zealander was a late call-up to Eurasia Motorsport for The Bend where he sampled prototype machinery for the first time driving the squad’s Ligier JS P217 Gibson.
This year marks the first time since 2015 that Le Mans doesn’t clash with a Virgin Australia Supercars Championship event, with the 30-year old a full-season driver in the latter.
Given the rare opportunity, van Gisbergen says he is working “pretty hard” and that he’s “got a few things going on” to try and get on the grid at Le Mans in June.
“I think that’s [LMP2] probably my best way of getting to Le Mans this year,” he said.
“It’s very hard to get into GTE without being a factory driver. So hopefully I can get in there some way or somewhat and go and do that race.
“I’ll take anything but it’ll be hopefully LMP2.”