Evans wins Ruapuna nail-biter, Heimgartner wins round
Evans and Heimgartner share the NZ Touring Car spoils
André Heimgarter has won round four of the BNT NZ Touring Car championship at Mike Pero Motorsport Park, after winning race two of the weekend and finishing second to reigning NZ SuperTourer series winner Simon Evans in an exciting final race of the weekend.
While Heimgartner's race two victory was a dominant, clear-cut affair, the reverse-grid third race was packed with incidents and passing on a damp Ruapuna circuit.
Starting from ninth, Evans made a "bloody ripper" start to be third by turn one, behind an equally quick off the line Angus Fogg, and Richards Team Toyota driver Scott Taylor. But as the field hurtled to the hairpin, Evans and Taylor made contact — spinning the Toyota Camry and impeding Evans.
"I started to get down the inside, and once I was there [Taylor] started to crowd me down, and then I got into the kerb early. He looked like he rolled out of the brake early to stay in front, and we just tagged. Then he got hit by Mitch [Cunningham], which then pushed him back into me, and he just wrapped around the front of me," Evans told Driven.
Following the race, an investigation into the incident was prompted, but Evans went on to retain his result.
"[The spin] definitely wasn't intentional or anything, it was just one of those things. It was just hard racing at the end of the day," he added.
(From left) Jason Bargwanna, André Heimgarter, and Simon Evans celebrate on the race-three podium. Photo / Matthew Hansen
After the clash, Evans had fallen to fourth. Over the following laps he would pass Tim Edgell and Mitch Cunningham — both times at the turn four hairpin. This promoted the driver to second.
After a red-flag period caused by the delayed recovery of Sam Barry's beached Ford Falcon, Evans restarted in third place with seven laps remaining — leapfrogged by Bargwanna in pit lane.
After dispatching Bargwanna, Evans set off after Fogg. But a spin put paid to the Property Tutors driver's shot at a win, handing Evans the lead with only a handful of laps remaining.
Evans' main concern with the finish in sight was the fast-approaching Heimgartner, who had also sliced through the field. But the Smeg Racing driver was able to hold him off to record a memorable win.
"I knew [Heimgarter] was going to be quick, so with a few laps to go I really took a few risks. I actually pulled the gap out a bit, which I was really happy about, so I knew when I came to the last lap that I had a bit [of time] in buffer."
Second place was enough to give Heimgartner the round victory, and, perhaps equally as importantly, take points away from other championship hopefuls like Bargwanna and Edgell. Bargwanna finished in third.
Angus Fogg looked quick early in race three, but had to settle for fifth after a podium in race two. Photo / Matthew Hansen
Behind the leaders, a memorable fight raged between Cunningham, Edgell, the recovering Fogg, Enzed's Tom Alexander, Nick Ross in the Total Oils Nissan Altima. At one point the battle ran three abreast through inner section of the course, which further blossomed into a tough scrap between Ross and Fogg — the pair trading paint with Fogg gaining the upper hand.
The race for honours in class two was equally fierce, as Brock Cooley and Liam MacDonald both suffered from spins and incidents, while neither Brad Lathrope nor race one winner Sam Barry made it to the finish. In the end Cooley won the final heat, while Liam MacDonald won the round thanks to a points count-back.
The series now moves to their second southern round in as many weeks at Teretonga Raceway, on January 23–24.
Race two results
1. André Heimgarter
2. Simon Evans
3. Angus Fogg
4. Nick Ross
5. Tim Edgell
6. Jason Bargwanna
7. Mitch Cunningham
8. Tom Alexander
9. Lance Hughes
10. Scott Taylor
Race three results
1. Simon Evans
2. André Heimgarter
3. Jason Bargwanna
4. Mitch Cunningham
5. Angus Fogg
6. Tim Edgell
7. Tom Alexander
8. Nick Ross
9. Brock Cooley (class two)
10. Liam MacDonald (class two)