Monday Motor Sport Report

V8 SUPERCARS: Why Triple Eight grabbed The Giz

V8 SUPERCARS’ fast and expressive young talent Shane van Gisbergen’s move to Triple Eight Race Engineering on a three-year deal from 2016 is a decisive and early move to counter the emerging threat of the Penske team in the category.

Those with lots of nous on pit lane, and that includes Triple Eight boss Roland Dane, understand that while Penske’s entry into V8 Supercars has been quite measured, the American motor sporting giant has the potential to dominate.

Grabbing V8 Supercars’ big talent Van Gisbergen, who is just 25, before anyone else can woo him is a prime example of Dane’s attention to detail and clever medium-term planning, which now includes boosting the team to three cars.

With last year’s championship runner-up Van Gisbergen joining Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes, there can be no argument that T8 will have an unmatched team of drivers in 2016.

Whincup, who may or may not have been talking to Penske, recently extended his T8 deal to the end of 2018.

And Lowndes has extended his contract for a further two years, ensuring a three-car T8 attack. Lowndes may have lost a little of his speed, but is still generating more merchandising sales than anyone in V8 Supercars.

The best team on the V8 Supercars grid will soon look even more threatening. And it now has a solid succession plan for Lowndes, who is now 40 and the second-oldest driver in the category.

Six-time series champion Whincup and five-time Bathurst 1000 winner Lowndes were a formidable enough combination in recent years and now Van Gisbergen will bring his own blend of blinding natural speed and exuberance to the T8 attack.

“Given the growing trend of larger teams and the intense competition that this brings, we felt that this is the ideal time to add another entry to our championship campaign to enhance the competitive depth of the team,” said Triple Eight managing director Dane.

Dane has cleverly put the two fastest blokes in pit lane together. Whincup and Van Gisbergen will fight spectacularly in the championship with the ageing but still quick Lowndes there to hound them both.

It will be intriguing to watch how Van Gisbergen, who has no great regard for corporate duties, deals with those chores at T8, as well as the demands of noted hard taskmaster Dane.

A big salary jump will certainly be one benefit of moving to T8.

Dane might also keep Van Gisbergen happy by giving him the freedom to tackle some major international GT races outside of his V8 obligations.

Some fans will question the loyalty of Van Gisbergen, particularly after his controversial departure from the Stone Brothers operation at the end of 2012, citing he was weary of racing, and then bobbing up at Tekno for the start of the 2013 season.

But the Kiwi’s move to Triple Eight appears to have the endorsement of Tekno boss Jonathon Webb: “Obviously we are sorry to be losing Shane at the end of the year; we have shared a lot of success over the past two years and we are looking forward to another fantastic year together in 2015.

“I have had a long relationship with Roland and Triple Eight Race Engineering and we look forward to working together into the foreseeable future with a new face behind the wheel of our race car.”

So all happy and smiley….at least publicly.

And Triple Eight looks the goods for 2016.

WRC: Tanak survives scary ‘off’ and dunking

OTT Tanak and co-driver Raigo Molder on Friday escaped wet and shocked but otherwise unhurt after a terrifying few moments on Rally Mexico when their Ford Fiesta fired over a drop and into a deep, murky lake.

The M-Sport World Rally Team car rolled down a bank and into the water, momentarily floating on the surface the right way up. Horrified onlookers watched Tanak and Molder wriggle from their sinking car seconds before it disappeared to the bottom of the lake.

“Luckily the car landed on its wheels, but the water was so deep that the car sank really fast,” said Tanak. “As soon as we opened the doors the car was gone in just a few seconds.

"I also had a problem with my intercom wire because it didn’t come loose and was dragging me under the water. We were really lucky. It was not a nice moment to have.

“When we started to swim to the edge, it was quite a bit of work with helmets on. I’m not sure if I’m a good swimmer, but I survived so I’m good enough.”

The 27-year-old Estonian blamed himself for the slam-dunk.

“It was a downhill braking in the compression and something broke in the front right. The wheel was turning out and it dragged us to the edge of the road.”

Divers were dispatched to locate the “TiTanak” in the deep and dirty water but the Fiesta remained immersed for almost 10 hours.

Impressively, Molder's mobile phone was still working after the lengthy spell underwater.

Though disturbed by the near-death experience, Tanak supported M Sport’s decision to try to repair the Fiesta and get back into the rally, he and Molder working alongside the mechanics into the night.

The team changed the gearbox, fuel tank, turbocharger, cooling system, boost control valves, electronics, brakes, front and rear suspension and a number of cosmetic components. They repaired the engine block and drained it of lake water.

The re-start was made less complicated by the quick thinking of Molder, who kept hold of his vital pace notes as the car slipped below the surface and dried them later in his hotel room.

“It was something mega what the guys did [the repairs],” said Tanak. “That’s why I had to be there with them.

"There was crazy emotion, and when the baby’s engine started to roar it was an absolutely amazing feeling!”

Though the efforts were not in vain, Tanak’s Fiesta did not run fault-free on Saturday, when the effects of the dousing again re-appeared.

More components were dried in the Mexican sunshine – a faulty sensor was found to be the culprit - before the TiTanak was ready for the last three stages held on the final day.

F1: Alonso rumours fly

WITH some mind-blowing rumours flying relating to Fernando Alonso’s health and driving future buzzing around the motor sports media, the FIA needs to act swiftly to clarify the exact reason why the Spanish superstar won’t be on the starting grid in Melbourne.

The significant discussion point surrounding Alonso’s testing crash and injuries are about doctors not ruling out the possibility that the two-time world champ may have blacked out in his McLaren-Honda before it left the track and collided with a barrier at Barcelona.

The official story is that a gust of wind blew Alonso’s car off the track.

Sky Italia, the F1 broadcaster, claims Alonso told close friends and family that he suffered a "major shock in his spine" before losing control of his car and striking the wall.

Fabrizio Barbazza, who had a brief F1 career, weighed in with a suggestion that Alonso took a 600-watt zap in the cockpit.

Another former GP driver, Rene Arnoux, declared he is “convinced that Fernando had a physical problem before the accident”.

Yet another report alleges that there was no sign of anything amiss with the car in the moments before the crash and that it simply headed off the track.

McLaren ruled out a car or engine failure.

Some conjecture seems based on Alonso being unconscious when crash crew and medics reached him, even though the impact was not considered severe.

Spanish newspaper El Pais reported Alonso “woke up in 1995”, having forgotten the last 20 years of his life.

Though Alonso looked well when he left hospital and recorded a video message for his followers, sources close to the Spaniard say he remembers everything except the crash itself.

Some say fears are growing that Alonso may never drive again, though this seems a little too lurid to accept.

Dane Kevin Magnussen, the McLaren test driver, will replace Alonso in the Australian Grand Prix.

WRC: VW’s Ogier makes it three from three

WHILE there were dramas plentiful for many rivals, defending FIA world rally champions Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia cruised to a comfortable victory in the 12th Rally Mexico on Sunday.

Despite an unfavourable starting position for day one – he was first on the road and acting as sweeper – Ogier was in masterly form and controlled his pace perfectly over the 21 special stages.

His third WRC win of the season, by more than a minute, gives the Frenchman a 34-point lead in the drivers' championship after three rounds.

The all-Norwegian battle for second overall swung in favour of Citroen’s Mads Ostberg in the 55km Guanajuatito stage when VW’s Andreas Mikkelsen spun and lost a handful of seconds and was not able to regain the time over the closing two stages.

Welshman Elfyn Evans repeated his effort of last year with another fourth in the M-Sport World Rally Team Fiesta.

A puncture cost Hyundai works driver Dani Sordo valuable time on Saturday afternoon, and ongoing brake issues and shoulder pain hampered the Spaniard on Sunday. He finished fifth

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