Scott McLaughlin secures place with Fujitsu
Shane van Gisbergen has driven his Ford Falcon into the sunset but the 2013 V8 Supercars championship represents a new dawn for another New Zealand motorsport driver tipped to power to the top of his pursuit.
Auckland teenager Scott McLaughlin has secured a coveted full-time drive for the Fujitsu Racing GRM team less than a fortnight after making his Supercars debut in the final 250km race of the season-ending Telstra 500 in Sydney.
McLaughlin, 19, had barely wrapped up the Dunlop V8 development series at the Olympic Games precinct before GRM team owner Garry Rogers asked the rookie to the deputise for Alex Premat after the Frenchman was ruled out through illness.
And placing 17th after starting at the tail of the 28-car grid proved the ideal audition for McLaughlin, who had been in negotiations with at least three other teams.
Inheriting the seat vacated by Michael Caruso caps a superb 2012 for McLaughlin, who finished sixth in his Bathurst 1000 debut in October with Jonathon Webb before claiming the inaugural New Zealand V8 SuperTourers title last month.
Rogers was delighted to win the race to contract the rising star to a multi-year deal.
"We've been keeping an eye on Scott for some time and his on-track approach has been very impressive. He's a level-headed young man who has shown great race craft.
"I was very impressed with his endurance racing this year while his Dunlop Series championship speaks for itself," he said.
Soon after signing McLaughlin was headed to Winton in country Victoria to test the team's new-look Holden Commodore and could hardly contain his enthusiasm.
"This is what I have been working towards since moving up from karts in 2010. The (Dunlop) championship in my third year was always my focus, so to be picked up by Garry and his team is just fantastic.
"I've had the most amazing year this year so this just caps it off perfectly," he said, before anticipating a rougher ride in 2013.
"It's (Supercars) definitely a lot harder than anything I've ever experienced. I noticed that at Sydney when I had a little run around there. I've still got to learn in race craft and pit stops etcetera."
Rogers has a history of developing young talent - Jamie Whincup accelerated his career under the Australian's guidance - but there was no pressure on McLaughlin to follow in the four-time champion's slip stream when Adelaide's Clipsal 500 opens the new title race in March.
"Expectations can be a double-edged sword so I think we just want to go at our pace and make sure he gets the best equipment and the best support we can give him," team manager Pierluigi Orsi told speedcafe.com
Meanwhile, van Gisbergen could be considering a switch to motor rallying in the aftermath of last month's shock decision to quit Stone Brothers Racing and return home to New Zealand for personal reasons.
The 23-year-old Aucklander had been expected to ultimately win a V8 Supercars crown but opted to step away from the sport after the final round in Sydney, six months after re-signing with SBR through to 2015.
However, it did not take long for van Gisbergen to get back behind a wheel - he has already had a test drive in a Group N Andrew Simms Mitsubishi Evo 9 through Maramarua Forest, south of Auckland.
Speedcafe.com reported former Kiwi rally champ Chris West was impressed with van Gisbergen's efforts.
"We expected Shane to be quick but I think we were all surprised at how quickly he got in the groove and how quickly he advanced on each consecutive run.
"Shane certainly has the ability and the attitude to do very well in rallying."