I had a unique perspective for the Saturday race. Strangely I was watching it on the telly with the sound off and talking to people about it on air - as I ended up by pure good luck doing a stint as night shift host on Radio Sport. It couldn't have been better timing. I had an open licence to talk with sports fans about anything and the fantastic race at Sydney was a perfect leaner for the night.
It would be fair to say I was acting a wee bit like a fan boy, but so what, like many I've watched the young man race a touring car in the Australian competition since his first outing with TKR back in 2007. He was raw and showed potential. Yes potential. It's a word that's often thrown out there with abandon, but for the teenager it was damn appropriate even back then.
I then recruited him to work in a motorsport magazine with me as a columnist. He was actually funny to deal with and I mean that in a humorous way. He would basically dictate to me over the phone what he was trying to get across in his column and I'd simply type it up in a more coherent and readible format, it was bloody amusing. The thing is though, this extremely shy young man knew what he was talking about with the air of someone ten years his senior. You could sense his race craft. It was a genuine pity that he couldn't generally share it to the media or public, as there is so much racing knowledge in that head of his.
He was starting to find his feet at SBR but when the Erebus transition came to play, SVG struggled to deal with it all and subsequently quit. He had clear reasons and I was fine with it all. I watched with distaste a lot of the vitriol across social media that came from racing fans. I made a few open statements lambasting these people and backing up Shanes decision to do whatever the hell he wanted, his life, his choices. It was even worse for him when he came back, and he was even copping it from fellow drivers. He's recently opened up on the topic and admitted he should have spoken out a bit more about what was going on, but again I was ok with it all as my view of him was a driver - not a media guru or public speaker.
The point is, he grew up in the sport and had some struggles. But he took all the hate and equally all the support, and came back into the game - and that must have been a real mind F#@k to deal with. Put yourself in his shoes and try imagine what it must have been like. He still has to deal with 'race fans' that consider him dirt for what happened between him and Erebus, and he always will, but they are thankfully only a tiny minority that occasionally feel the need to share across social media about how he hurt their feelings. Poor buttercups.
Betty Klimenko has just had an article written about her by Speedcafe, how she feels the reason he walked from the team is because he is sexist and wouldn't work with a female boss. This has blown me away to be honest, shes lost a bit of cred with this one with myself and possible a raft of motorsport supporters. She'll possibly realise this in a day or so and make another apology on Facebook for spouting off....
But back to this champion. I also firmly believe, as well as having his close friends and family standing with him when he returned to the sport, that the team at Tekno were mostly responsible for moulding him and converting him into a more public savvy individual. They managed to get him more comfortable with public attention and scrutiny, and they should recieve a lot of credit for that.
His teammate Jono Webb probably played a big part even if it was done subliminally. During his stint with SBR he was young and fired up and just wanted to race but also had to do all the obligatory PR work associated with the job, with Tekno he was clearly given a different path to walk down as his PR work with the team was extremely minimal. He was allowed to focus on his best attributes - driving a race car.
Here's a stat of interest, since 2010 he has never finished lower than sixth in the championship. It a poigniant fact because it showed that he was the capable driver we all knew of, he just didnt quite have the best machinery at his disposal week in week out. It was close with Tekno, really close, but it needed that tiny extra little edge - the edge he got from Red Bull.
Shane makes no bones about it, the decision to join RBR was an easy one, and what bonifide driver would not want to be part of something like that team. They have the best of everything and of course you would go for it. I'm quite happy to puff my chest and say that twelve months ago I publically predicted this Championship win, the thing is though, now it has actually happened it is still sinking in. 48 hours have passed by and the now that the confetti has stopped flying and the champagne has stopped flowing it allows all of us to sit back and realise how massive this entire season is.
We've watched the successful results from Kiwi drivers around the globe continuously roll in, and we are lapping it up each and every time with the likes of Dixon and Hartley being the top of the overseas pile. The thing is, what both of those drivers - particularly Dixon - have done is outstanding, but we've been waiting impatiently for 25 years to see someone conquer the Australian crown. Many New Zealanders have tried, and they've mostly failed. That's what adds to the whole thing - it's not like we have a Kiwi winning the Supercars title every 3 or 4 years.
Accolades have rightfully been thrown around left right and centre, and veteran racers are now saying he will become a multi time champion. Thing is, many of us have been saying that for years now. The apprentiship is over, he is now the strongest force in the field and everyone else now has to chase. Will he reach six titles or more? Hard to say but there are certainly more to come.
I'm not embarassed to say I'm a fan-boy right now. And loving it.