Shane Van Gisbergen has dismissed talk that his relationship with fellow Kiwi Scott McLaughlin has soured, as the two battle for the 2018 Supercars Championship.
The two flying Kiwis went head-to-head in the penultimate round in front of home fans at Pukekohe two weeks ago, with the drivers trading a win and a second-place finish each.
McLaughlin heads to the series decider in Newcastle this weekend with a 14-point lead, but could have had more, if his countryman received a penalty for a perceived pit-lane infringement.
The Red Bull driver survived a post-race protest by McLaughlin's DJR-Penske team, but it wasn't the only moment of controversy resulting from the Saturday race.
Van Gisbergen copped a five-second penalty for a bump-and-run on McLaughlin that led to a lead change and eventual race win for the Pukekohe local.
As a result, McLaughlin cast a frustrated figure at the post-race press conference, after squandering a race win and then an apparent cheap shot by Van Gisbergen in parc ferme.
Following his win, the number 97 Holden driver parked so close to McLaughlin's car that the Ford driver couldn't open his door, eventually climbing out the window.
Van Gisbergen laughed it off as unintentional, but McLaughlin was clearly unimpressed.
However, Van Gisbergen has poured cold water on any developing friction between the two, stressing his respect for the series leader.
"Everyone has made a fake rivalry," Van Gisbergen told Supercars.com.
"That's probably one of my negatives - I don't influence the media enough and they make up their own stories. I probably didn't say enough about it.
"It's shit, but it makes the story so much bigger for Newcastle.
"I think it’s easy to forget how much Scotty and I respect each other, and how much we enjoy racing each other.
"It's been awesome to see him grow the last few years. I think Newcastle is going to be epic, no matter which way it goes.
"It’s been a really good season racing against him."
The number 17 Falcon driver held off a fast-charging Jamie Whincup to cross the line first in front of Van Gisbergen, who benefited from team orders, when his teammate allowed him past on the final corner.
That act drew a large chorus of boos from the home crowd, directed at their own, but Van Gisbergen said it didn't bother him.
"That was more about the team orders, but that's what you've got to do when you're in that position - you've got to put the team first.
"It's a hard call, everyone hates team orders, but that's part of our sport."
Join us at 2pm Saturday and Sunday for live updates of the final Supercars round in Newcastle.