Van Gisbergen’s frank admission amid Skaife drama
The reigning Supercars champion has been embroiled in a feud with legend of the sport, commentator and Supercars Board member Mark Skaife since the season-opening Newcastle 500.
The furore was sparked when van Gisbergen shut down media questions after winning the Sunday race – something he explained in the press conference was a protest against calls to not criticise the new Gen3 platform.
But despite that clear explanation, van Gisbergen’s actions were denigrated by Skaife on live TV under the guise of it being a response to his Saturday disqualification.
Van Gisbergen has now spoken about the matter in detail, admitting that he could have handled the protest better, particularly when addressing Fox Sports host Jess Yates immediately after the race.
However he is also standing by his disappointment in the censorship efforts and Skaife’s on-air comments.
“I definitely could have handled the after the race stuff better,” he told the Rusty’s Garage podcast.
“People like [press conference emcee] Chad [Neylon] and Jess, they’re awesome for our sport. They have the right intentions and right way of doing things.
“When Jess asked me that question after the podium, I didn’t even listen to the question, I knew what I was going to say. And that probably wasn’t the right thing. When I listened back to it, she asked the perfect question to ignore all the outside stuff and focus on the racing.
“Anyway, I know I can be better.
“But I’m still pretty gutted by the way Skaife was with his comments. He’s someone who we’ve all given feedback to with the Gen3 car. He knows what we’re going on with and what we’re struggling with with the car.
“And for him to say the stuff that he did, like, it was pretty average by him.
“Pretending like it’s all roses and the car is perfect after the first race is not right. The car needs so much more development and time. Fundamentally, underneath, the car is awesome. It just needs time to be right.
“I don’t see why there’s a problem with being outward about that and telling people the story about what we need to fix and what we need to make better.
“Trying to hide and pretend everything is rosy is not right.”
A silver lining for van Gisbergen was the support he received in the wake of the saga.
“It turned out being very cool for me afterwards,” he said. “I’ve never had so much support from friends, family and colleagues.
“Not just drivers and teams, but the media people as well. It’s been amazing to hear what they’ve had to say, because even the media has gone through what we have with the car, and what they’re allowed to say about it and approach things.
“It’s been really cool to have that support.”
Skaife said last week that he had reached out to Triple Eight in a bid to clear the air with van Gisbergen, something he hoped would happen this week ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.
Van Gisbergen, however, isn’t sure what the next steps will be.
“It will be interesting to see how [Supercars] approaches it,” he said. “I had some interesting calls afterwards from people above him.
“I don’t know. I just want to focus on my driving. Will be interesting to see what comes from it from their side. But I’m trying to ignore it and focus on the Grand Prix.
“It was a weird time for a couple of days. I’ve never won a race and felt so down after a weekend.”
The three-time Supercars champion also detailed an internal conflict over how much support to give Supercars.
He says the series is now proactively seeking his advice on how to improve the new cars, right at a point where he wants to shift his focus to trying to recover from his Saturday disqualification in Newcastle and fight for a fourth title.
“It’s a hard one and to be honest I’m battling with myself,” he said.
“They asked last week to get some things together on what we need to do to make the car better. I basically said, ‘go to nine months ago and there’s all the comments. Nothing has changed’. Now they are trying to change all these things.
“On one hand I want to help the series get better. But on the other hand, I’ve got a championship to race for. This is the car we’ve got.
“I’ve been put 150 points in the hole. I’m conflicted, because I just want to race now and I’m fired up to be perfect in the next few weeks and get those points back. But I want to make the car better for everyone.
“All of the drivers are struggling with the same things, we have the same comments. It’s a hard one. For me, I just want to come out in Melbourne and drive it and do my best.
“It’s hard to be selfish and have everyone’s best interest at heart at the same time.”