Gibson at Highlands 2014Podium finish for Gibson in V8 SuperTourer race

Auckland based Mark Gibson has finished today's final race on the podium after a gruelling 20 laps of Cromwell's Highlands Motorsport Park driving the John McIntyre Racing #47 Blackwoods Protector FG Falcon.

The first of seven rounds for the 2014 season, Gibson was tested in both sun and rain as the weather swung from seasonal opposites during the weekend. With rain affecting both of today's races the 21-year-old took it all in his stride as he stuck to the team's game plan of small steps. Tackling both a new circuit and car Gibson finished sixth in Saturday's opening race, backing that up with a safe seventh this morning.

Starting from position five for the afternoon's final race of 20 laps, Gibson slotted in to fourth when the car in front failed to make the grid. Setting himself a clear spot behind the leaders he moved to second for a while after two in front spun. Yielding to the gain as the race wore on he kept well within his limits and slowly narrowed the gap to the car in front, getting a clean passing move to rise to third position on the 16th lap. Holding that until the chequered flag gives Gibson a total of 172 points and position five in the driver standings.

"It was far beyond the expectations of this weekend," said an elated Gibson. "I was looking to get points rather than a podium result – that wasn't on my mind so I'm very very happy.

"The car was extremely good in the last race and I felt right at home – so I could concentrate more on looking after it and the tyres and pick opportunity as it came. That was how I could work my way up to third spot."

Gibson also conceded he's comfortable in the wet conditions – unlike many of his peers.

For team owner John McIntyre it surpassed any realistic result he could have expected from a rookie driver on a brand new circuit.

"Looking at the whole weekend Mark played it exactly how I'd hoped. In the end he exceeded that plan. In the third race, while he was the least experienced driver he drove like the most experienced and I think that's all credit to him and the good head on his shoulders for a 21-year-old."

Returning their undamaged car to its transporter was a further boost to the team – faring better than many of the initial 12 cars that started.

"He's given us a dream start to the championship and it means we can work on other things knowing we have got points in the bank. We've got a good straight car going to the next round at Manfeild and that's put us on the front foot."

The team have a mere two weeks before the next round – being held at the Manawatu located Manfeild circuit. The 8-9 February weekend is headlined by the running of the New Zealand Grand Prix, with the V8 SuperTourer category running as a support class.

Gibson HighlandsGibson in the points after season opening V8 SuperTourer race

Auckland based John McIntyre Racing driver Mark Gibson has scored a solid haul of points following today's opening race for the 2014 V8 SuperTourer season, being held at Cromwell's Highlands Motorsport Park.

The first time Gibson has raced the #47 Blackwoods Protector FG Falcon resulted in a sixth placed finish, netting 45 points toward the coveted drivers' title. The 21-year-old crossed the finish line having survived multiple instances of accident attrition during the afternoon 12-lap race.

Also the first time the seven-round V8 SuperTourer category has raced at the recently established venue, Gibson says he's thrilled with the result given the progress he's still to achieve.

Quotes from Mark Gibson, driver of the #47 Blackwoods Protector FG Falcon V8 SuperTourer:

"A good points haul for us. To get from 11th to sixth and around the carnage left us with a clean car I could drive to the finish.

"John got on the radio warning me what was about to happen and I was able to brakes hard enough to avoid what lay ahead – it was a lot like the movie 'Days of Thunder' really."

In more temperate conditions compared to the searing summer sun of Friday, light winds and high cloud are expected to give way to rain for Sunday's conclusion to the weekend. Featuring two races, one of 12 laps and one of 20 laps Gibson says he has plenty more to come from his driving performance.

Mark GibsonGibson to make V8 SuperTourer season debut this weekend

Auckland based 21-year-old race car driver Mark Gibson makes his debut to the V8 SuperTourer series this weekend (25-26 January) for Taupo's John McIntyre Racing team – heading to the central Otago location of Highland's Motorsport Park near Cromwell.

Having recently signed to the title winning V8 SuperTourer team it will be a weekend of firsts for the series rookie as he takes the pace setting #47 Blackwoods Protector FG Falcon for his first laps around the South Island circuit.

At 4.1km it is the longest and newest track on the seven round calendar and incorporates 14 turns – each with a uniquely international characteristic.

"It's an amazing facility with inclines and declines that gives variety and challenge you don't see anywhere else in New Zealand. From what I've seen of race footage there are a couple of new passing opportunities so you really have to be on top of your game to do well there I reckon," says Gibson, originally from Taupo.

Having just completed and passed a four-year degree to become a yacht designer Gibson's focus is now on collecting points toward the V8 SuperTourer sprint title. Contested at the first four rounds, starting this weekend at Cromwell, Gibson will then share the Blackwoods Protector FG Falcon V8 SuperTourer with McIntyre for the three endurance rounds.

Mentored by McIntyre in preparation for the latter half of the season, he says the opening round is especially important – as Gibson hasn't raced there: "I will be using my experience from driving the Fastway Porsche at the Highlands 101 last year where we finished tenth, and third in the 3-hour race – to guide the setup and preparation for the weekend. We've done a lot of video analysis from the in-car footage and have adapted that to what we feel will work for our Blackwoods Protector FG Falcon V8 SuperTourer and tested it on the Taupo circuit last week. We did a total of 78 laps or 280km, during a very productive day – of which Mark did 62 laps. The car was then given a quick check and loaded up for the journey south."

The journey to Cromwell started a week ago when the team left their Taupo base to embark on a South Island tour.

"It's a pretty exciting week," says McIntyre. "It's been a great opportunity to travel to different parts of the country and visit so many sponsors and supporters during our tour – especially since we're going further south than ever before.

From the Nelson based Talley's plant the team has since journeyed to Christchurch, Ashburton and Timaru as it works its way to central Otago – stopping in Cromwell and then Queenstown late on Thursday.

"Then its business time – as we take every opportunity to look over the track and bring Mark up to speed with its nuances that go toward making a winning package. During the first practise session I will spend some of that track time in the car and get a feel for how it's setup," explains McIntyre.

"Basically we are doubling our feedback and data acquisition by doing it that way – it's like having a two car team in some ways."

Following the 40 minute test session the team gets on Friday afternoon they get a further 30 minutes early on the Saturday before mid-morning qualifying sessions to decide the starting positions for the first two races.

The opening race of 12 laps will be held at 2:25pm Saturday afternoon with the second race of 12 laps from 10:30am Sunday morning.

The total of points from those first two races will decide the starting grid for the weekend finale – of 20 laps, starting at 2pm.

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