New Zealand's premier V8 Supercars driver Shane van Gisbergen has confirmed he will quit his motorsport career indefinitely at the end of the 2012 championship in Sydney next weekend and has cited personal reasons for his decision to return home to Auckland.
Less than a week after speculation mounted that the 23-year-old was poised to abandon a long-held dream to win the title because he was disillusioned with the sport and Stone Brothers Racing's change of direction, Van Gisbergen issued a statement to clarify family issues motivated his decision.
Van Gisbergen was enthusiastic when re-signing with the Gold Coast-based operation founded by New Zealanders Jim and Ross Stone in May though to the end of the 2015 but last week told management last week of his desire to relocate to New Zealand.
"I am leaving V8 Supercars due to personal reasons which I do not wish to discuss in the public domain. I will be moving back home to New Zealand and have no fixed plans for the future," he said.
"Contrary to media reports, I do not wish to race for another V8 Supercar team and my decision to leave the sport has in no way been caused by Ross and Jimmy's decision to switch manufacturers (Ford to Mercedes Benz AMG) in 2013 or the teams partnership with Erebus Motorsport."
Van Gisbergen, who is fifth in the championship standings heading into the final round on a street circuit at the Sydney Olympic Park precinct, joined SBR in 2007 and enjoyed his most successful campaign in 2011 where he finished fourth after winning the New Zealand round in Hamilton and again at Hidden Valley.
"I have enjoyed a five successful years with Stone Brothers Racing and was given as unique opportunity by the team to race V8s at a very young age, which I am very grateful for.
"I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Ross, Jimmy, my sponsors and my team for the time and money they invested in me during my V8 career," he said.
Team principle Ross Stone said the team was disappointed to lose "such an exceptional talent" and confirmed SBR's existing sponsorship arrangements would not be compromised by van Gisbergen's exit.
He said a replacement driver for the #9 SP Tools Ford Falcon would be announced before the start of the 2013 season and would not be drawn on the identity of possible candidates.
Van Gisbergen was earmarked by SBR as a future star while racing open-wheel cars in New Zealand during the mid-2000s.
He made his V8s debut as a 17-year-old with Team Kiwi Racing at Oran Park in 2007 and was promoted to SBR's main team the following year.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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