Racing ace gives rookie chance to drive V8
Nelson driver takes gamble on young starLANCE HASTIE
V8 SuperTourer driver and team owner John McIntyre this week announced he's handing an opportunity to drive his Blackwoods Protector race car for the 2014 race season to Taupo bred and Auckland-based Mark Gibson.
Revealed at the John McIntyre Racing team's season launch held at its Taupo Motorsport Park located workshop, McIntyre and Gibson also unveiled their livery for the coming seven-round campaign.
The team's third season contesting the premier V8 SuperTourer series, starts in a little over a week's time when they head south to the recently established Highlands Motorsport Park, near the central Otago township of Cromwell (January 25 to 26).
In making his decision to put Gibson in the FG Falcon V8 SuperTourer Nelson-based McIntyre said the move was about creating opportunities for both new talent and his team.
"It's a recipe that works well internationally - where the team is run by championship winning personnel that shapes raw talent in to a professional result," McIntyre said.
"For the team to win, I need to drive it and not the car. That's where putting the next generation in my place allows me to concentrate on all aspects of the team properly, and ultimately improve our team performance."
Having contested 17 New Zealand championships, won three NZ V8 titles (2006-2007, 2007-2008 and 2010-2011), the 2012 V8 SuperTourer sprint title and competed consecutively seasons since 1992, McIntyre said he would continue to race. Gibson will contest all seven rounds of the series as the primary driver with McIntyre co-driving at the three endurance races that carry the majority of the season's championship points. McIntyre will also participate during the practise sessions at the sprint rounds.
"It's a great fit for Mark to spend four rounds surrounded by elite competition in identical specification cars to prepare him for the endurance portion of the season. That's the one we're really looking at being at the front of."
The V8 SuperTourer endurance title was won last season by Hamilton's Ant Pedersen and Australian V8 Supercar driver Chaz Mostert while the overall title winner was V8 Supercar stalwart Greg Murphy.
"From being in New Zealand's golf academy for two years to last year representing New Zealand at the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) organised Young Driver Excellence Academy, Mark brings a high level of achievement and potential to the team," said McIntyre of the 21-year-old Gibson's extensive resume.
Gibson finished the course in the top-three of 11 drivers selected from the Asia Pacific Region, and set fastest times during on-track testing. He earned selection by being the top performer at the MotorSport New Zealand run Elite MotorSport Academy in 2012.
Also a certified yacht designer, having spent four years completing a degree at Auckland's Unitec, Gibson said his focus now was on being a professional V8 Supercar driver.
"After an injury stymied my golf career, I took to car racing and instantly fell for the passion of competition and its challenges," he said.
"Last year's Young Driver Excellence Academy put me much further ahead on that road to being a professional driver and in front of V8 Supercar and CAMS [Confederation of Australian Motor Sport] representatives.
"Now with the opportunity John has offered for 2014, it provides the perfect stepping-stone to compete at the highest level in New Zealand alongside V8 Supercar drivers. Best of all I get the full attention and resources of a driver and team that has won championships.
"I can go to the first round as a rookie, be nervous and know the car and team are 100 per cent - the perfect way to move my career forward."
McIntyre will be at Gibson's disposal while he's in the car with radio communication allowing the pair to talk driver-to-driver.
McIntyre said: "It's also important that as a team principal the person Mark is communicating with can relate precisely to what it's like out there - to know the protocols and key points that can jump-start a drivers performance. That's what I'm looking forward to as we work our way to the front of the field."