The weekend’s racing at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas brought high temperatures, clear skies and a fantastic podium for Team TEKNO V.I.P. Petfoods’ Shane van Gisbergen in the final race of the weekend.
Both van Gisbergen and Team TEKNO Darrell Lea stablemate, Jonathon Webb, had strong pace across the entire weekend at the Formula One facility in the Texan capital.
The pace was clear from the opening of practice on Friday, with van Gisbergen topping the time sheets in session three, and being solidly in the top ten all day. Webb tuned the car across the day to end up fourth fastest in practice.
The boys were upbeat following their speed in practice, with Jonathon was pretty happy with the car from the outset:
“The car was pretty close to the mark at the start of the day, we worked really hard and by the last session it was really good. It’s feeling good. Looking forward to qualifying and racing tomorrow.”
Shane was similarly pleased. “The pace is pretty good today, so I’m happy. The good thing is that the car is strong on old tyres which will be good for the races.”
Saturday’s two qualifying sessions were held in the morning, separated by only ten minutes, with both races held later in the afternoon. Team TEKNO were confident of a good showing following their pace on Friday.
Qualifying for race 13 of the championship was up first, with Webb qualifying sixth fastest. Van Gisbergen was to start from ninth, but a penalty for a pit lane infraction during parc fermé conditions meant he would start from the back of the grid.
Qualifying for race 14 came quickly after, and was better for both drivers, with van Gisbergen starting from fourth and Webb from fifth.
After starting race 13 from the back of the grid, van Gisbergen was moving quickly through the field, and was in 19th position when the engine dropped a cylinder, causing him to fall back down the order.
He pitted expecting to retire, only for the team to discover it was merely a loose spark plug lead causing the issue. It was quickly fixed, and he was back on the track, two laps down. He had blistering pace for the remainder of the race, setting the fastest lap and race lap record in the process.
Webb had great pace all the way through Race 13, moving through the field before a delay due to pit lane traffice forced him to again charge. He finished a fighting 7th, after a late race scrap with Rick Kelly.
Starting Race 14 much further up the grid was great for both drivers, with Webb getting a fantastic start from P5, going around the outside of turn one to get to third place. van Gisbergen had a slower start, and lost a couple of positions early before climbing back through the field.
Despite battling a lack of radio communications, forcing the team to resort to an old-school pit board, van Gisbergen raced hard and fast to put himself into a battle for a podium late in the race.
With a handful of laps to run, both he and Webb were monstering Fabian Coulthard who was struggling to keep up the pace. The battle ended with Webb passing van Gisbergen on the final lap, to claim fourth position and two TEKNO cars in the top five.
Webb was happy with his results today, commenting after race 14: “We had plenty of good racing today, and a great battle with Shane and Fabian. I’m happy with the results, but we’ll keep pushing hard tomorrow, keep moving forward and hopefully score a podium.”
van Gisbergen was frustrated with race 13, but happier with his race 14 form: “Well race 13 was unlucky for us! Starting from the back, we made a few places during the first few laps, then the plug lead fell off. It was running like a tractor! Race 14 was an awesome race though. Had a pretty junky start, but some cool battles especially at the end with Fabian and Jonathon. Bring on tomorrow!”
Sunday was another hot, clear Texan day with temps in the mid-30s. Qualifying pace was again good for both TEKNO drivers, with Webby taking the team teams spoils to qualify sixth for Race 15 and seventh for Race 16 ahead of van Gisbergen (seventh and eighth, respectively).
Strong strategy and great racing from both Webb and Van Gisbergen saw them rise through the pack during the 27-lap Race 15, which was punctuated by a Safety Car mid-race.
A poor start for van Gisbergen meant he worked hard for his fifth-placed finish, one behind teammate Webb, who got a great start and battled hard to get to the pointy end for double TEKNO top five result.
The hot conditions made it extremely tough for the drivers, with only 30mins to recover between races. The TEKNO Human Performance cold water bath proved its worth in these conditions, with both drivers plunging into its 12 degree water to bring their core temperature down before climbing back into the cabin.
Race 16 saw a Team TEKNO fourth row, and for the first time over the weekend, van Gisbergen got the better start, leaping from eighth to fifth by the exit of turn one. Webb dropped back to 10th, before battling through the pack. Van Gisbergen would race hard to reach the third step on the podium, with great team strategy and fast pit stops playing their part.
Webb was forced to battle with broken roll bars, that compromised his ability to adjust his car to suit the degradation of the tyres throughout the race. He would finish ninth to complete a double top ten for TEKNO, and a great weekend of results for the team.
SVG on the weekend in Texas: “Finally in that last one I got a good start. Yesterday we had that pit lane indiscretion so we started last, and then a plug lead fell off. But since then we’ve been fifth, fifth and then third so the race pace has been good. Qualifying is definitely our weakness at the moment, but it always has been a weakness of mine, so I need to keep working on that,” van Gisbergen said.
“Once we’re into the racing, I’m away. I thought the racing was really exciting, the people were fantastic and hopefully we’ll be back again next year. “Hopefully we can keep moving forward in Darwin and get even closer to the front. I like that track, it’s fun and good to slide around on the soft tyres up there.”
JW chatted about his Texas weekend: “We started off out of the box pretty well, the car was pretty much in the ballpark and just got better and better as we went on, and by the end of Friday we were pretty happy. Qualifying on Saturday the car was close, but not quite there, and still had a decent result, which carried over to race pace in the afternoon,” Webb said.
“Sunday was quite similar. Decent qualifying results, and a good result in the first race. Things went a bit pear-shaped in the second one, with a sway bar issue making it hard, but getting a horrible start certainly didn’t help things. It was tough to tune up the balance to suit the wearing tyres, so we struggled in that one a bit.”
Following the weekend in Texas, Shane van Gisbergen sits sixth and Jonathon Webb has climbed to 10th on the Championship points ladder. TEKNO remains fifth in the Teams Championship.
The V8 Supercars Championship next outing is at Hidden Valley in Darwin for the Skycity Triple Crown on June 14-16.