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Autosport 2021 Top 50: #16 Shane van Gisbergen

1st in Australian Supercars Championship

16-SVG

Top 50 Drivers of 2021

Autosport's team of expert journalists got together to try to assess who were the top 50 drivers of 2021. Here are the results.

Shane van Gisbergen’s 2021 season was nothing short of remarkable. He set the scene with a thrilling cameo at January’s New Zealand Grand Prix, which he won (comfortably) despite being forced to start from the pitlane after his fire extinguisher went off.

In Supercars even a broken collarbone and three broken ribs sustained while mountain biking couldn’t stop him. Three weeks after undergoing surgery he won at Sandown from 17th, part of his six-race winning streak to open the season.

PLUS: Ranking the top 10 Supercars drivers of 2021

By winning 14 races in total, the title was his with a round to spare. He also became only the second Bathurst Triple Crown winner by taking the 6 Hour, and was a race winner in GT World Challenge Australia too.

How van Gisbergen reached another level

To put it bluntly, Shane van Gisbergen made the Supercars field look average this year. It’s not, of course. It’s packed with professional drivers, some among the best in the world outside of Formula 1. But the 32-year-old was quite clearly on another level in 2021 as he added a second title to his first in 2016.

Prompted by being asked if he missed having fierce rival Scott McLaughlin in Supercars, van Gisbergen volunteered some insight into his form relative to the rest of the field after wrapping up the Supercars title a round early. He explained that he, Jamie Whincup and McLaughlin had pushed each other to new heights during the Triple Eight/Dick Johnson Racing battle over the past four or five seasons, beyond even bona fide stars such as Chaz Mostert and Cam Waters.

Van Gisbergen was in imperious form at Sandown, despite his recent serious injuries

Van Gisbergen was in imperious form at Sandown, despite his recent serious injuries

Photo by: Edge Photographics

Then McLaughlin left for IndyCar and Whincup, perhaps, took his eye off the ball as his transition from driver to T8 team boss neared. And van Gisbergen was left way out front, all on his own.

“I would have loved to have raced [McLaughlin this year],” said van Gisbergen. “There’s been three guys the last few years and our level has just gone crazy. I had to lift to Scotty, had to lift to Jamie, and we’ve all pushed each other.

“One of them is gone and the other has got, probably, a lot of outside factors that influence him. But I’ve got to keep focused, stay above that level and not drop to everyone else.

“It’s been awesome, this championship the last few years, trying to perform to your peak and keep learning. And I think this year I kept getting better. I’ve got to keep improving.”

But don’t assume that van Gisbergen will have it even easier in 2022 when Whincup becomes his boss rather than his team-mate. Between Anton De Pasquale’s Sydney swagger in November (seven poles and five wins from 10 races) and Mostert’s superb Bathurst 1000 victory, there are signs that others are looking to rise to the Kiwi’s challenge.

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