Winning the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy for a second time proved an emotional occasion for Shane van Gisbergen.
Van Gisbergen sealed the commemorative trophy after finishing just behind countryman Scott McLaughlin in Sunday’s Race 24 at the ITM Auckland SuperSprint.
The Red Bull Holden driver already had one hand on the trophy following his Race 23 victory, but van Gisbergen’s ruthless streak began to shine through as he pushed tooth and nail to catch McLaughlin on Sunday.
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While van Gisbergen was unable to prevent McLaughlin from breaking Craig Lowndes’ 23-year-old season wins record, the 2016 series champion was proud of how he fought, with Richards firmly on his mind.
So easily he could have sat in behind McLaughlin to the end, but van Gisbergen pushed hard in the ilk of the late JR and gave it everything.
The usually phlegmatic van Gisbergen was emotional in victory lane, with tears in his eyes.
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“With 20 laps to go we were safe in second, Shippy [engineer Grant McPherson] told me the points were safe,” van Gisbergen told the broadcast.
“I thought ‘should I cruise and collect or fight like Jason would?’ and man, I just stood on it until the end.
“I knew I wasn’t going to get to Scotty, but I gave it a go.
“It’s pretty awesome to have a great weekend like this, the support for us has been awesome.”
In the end, McLaughlin’s winning margin was 1.8976s, and the Kiwi duo celebrated towards victory lane with a lap of honour before shredding their rear tyres in front of the thousands of local fans on the hill.
The rivalry between the two came to a head in a thrilling battle for the 2018 championship, but the respect has always been there — and while McLaughlin has gapped the field this season, van Gisbergen has pushed all the way when he could.
Notably, Race 20 at Queensland Raceway was the scene of an SVG special when he kept McLaughlin honest as the laps ticked down.
This time, despite McLaughlin winning on Sunday in New Zealand, van Gisbergen claimed the weekend’s ultimate prize in honour of Richards, who passed away in late 2011 following a battle with a rare form of cancer.
Emotions spilled over when Richards’ father David presented van Gisbergen with the trophy in his son’s name, before the late driver’s daughters Sienna and Olivia posed in the podium photo.
Van Gisbergen couldn’t hide his emotions, but acknowledged the “special” moment.
“Especially having Jason’s daughters [Sienna and Olivia] up there, it was a hard moment but a special one,” he said.
“Seeing his parents every morning has been pretty cool, and then Charlotte and the kids.
“It’s awesome to race in his memory every year, and to see the mock-up of his car parked every morning that you walk into the paddock.
“It’s a cool feeling.”
JASON RICHARDS MEMORIAL TROPHY WINNERS
2019: Shane van Gisbergen
2018: Scott McLaughlin
2017: Jamie Whincup
2016: Shane van Gisbergen
2015: Jamie Whincup
2014: Mark Winterbottom
2013: Jason Bright