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Van Gisbergen builds Darwin Supercars pace

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 15/06/2017 Matt Coughlan

Red Bull Racing's Shane Van Gisbergen says DJR Team Penske aren't the only challengers to his title defence. © Getty Images Red Bull Racing's Shane Van Gisbergen says DJR Team Penske aren't the only challengers to his title defence. With a mixed start to the season behind him, defending Supercars champion Shane Van Gisbergen is poised to capitalise on his momentum in Darwin.

A last-start win at Winton was timely after the 28-year-old's title defence hit a couple of hurdles following a superb start.

The Holden star dealt with a penalty in Tasmania, tyre issues on Phillip Island and a slow pit during the first race at Winton.

His year kicked off on a high note with back-to-back wins in Adelaide and then victory in race one in Tasmania.

The Winton result was a one-two finish for Red Bull with teammate Jamie Whincup standing on the second step.

"We just needed to generally get a bit better," Van Gisbergen told AAP.

"There'd been a couple of weird rounds with Tassie and Phillip Island.

"It was good to have a couple of decent results and hopefully start getting back some points."

Van Gisbergen (1023) sits fourth in the drivers' standings, 37 points behind leader Fabian Coluthard (1060).

The Kiwi speedster has had to contend with the rise of DJR Team Penske's Fords, with Coulthard and Scott McLaughlin (1032) both ahead of him ahead of the sixth round.

Whincup (1056) is within four points of the lead despite not winning a race this year.

But last year's champion insists his focus is bigger than Penske.

"The competition is hot this year," Van Gisbergen said.

"There's five or six cars that are really quick consistently.

"Every weekend seems to have a smokey or two that's quick as well."

While McLaughlin and Coulthard are shooting for an unprecedented seventh consecutive pole position, Van Gisbergen is confident he has the qualifying speed to push for it.

"There's been a few other teams that are quick at different times," he said.

"For us it's just working on our own stuff and getting our mistakes to a minimum."

The weekend marks 20 years of the Top End event, with Jason Bright, Garth Tander and Craig Lowndes the drivers remaining in the championship from the inaugural meet.

Lowndes will be looking to add to his seven wins in Darwin, second to Mark Skaife, while Van Gisbergen will be looking to extend his streak of 28 consecutive top 10 shootout finishes.

The round begins with two practice sessions on Friday, ahead of a 42-lap race on Saturday and 70 laps on Sunday.

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