Heimgartner takes comfortable win in the wet, Bargwanna and Evans hog spotlight
Former V8 Supercar driver André Heimgartner has locked out the top-spot honours at Mike Pero Motosport Park for round four of the BNT NZ Touring Car championship, after taking pole position for the category's opening race before converting the position into overall race victory later in the afternoon.
After making a good start, the former Super Black Racing pilot's biggest challenge was dealing with the difficult conditions — which went from rain in the opening laps on an already wet circuit, to dry conditions by the time the chequered flag flew.
“They were pretty bad conditions at the start, but it made it interesting and gave it another element — starting fully wet then to have [the track] dry out. The whole time you're searching for grip and trying to improve as you go,” Heimgartner told Driven.
While the young driver has not competed in the NZ Touring Car championship for several events, getting back into the groove wasn't a drama.
“Compared to a V8 Supercar, [the SuperTourer is a little bit different, but it's not night and day. So the transition from one to the other isn't too hard. I drive quite a few other cars, so you get used to it after a while.”
Behind Heimgartner raged an interesting battle for second place [pictured] between former Bathurst 1000 champ Jason Bargwanna and reigning NZ SuperTourer series winner Simon Evans. It was to be the most exciting element of the race.
Having started from a disappointing eighth position, Bargwanna pushed through on the start to be in an impressive third position by the time the field reached 'pot hole', then second position by the end of the first lap — with a car that was sporting an upgraded rear-wing design in an effort to improve parity within the combined class-one ranks.
After eventually returning to third place after a tardy start, Evans couldn't pass Bargwanna's Richards Team Motorsport Toyota Camry, despite his best efforts and some attacking driving from the former Dunlop Development Series driver.
Behind the sparring pair was another battle pack, which eventually resolved itself in favour of Chesters Commodore driver Tim Edgell.
Mitch Cunningham, Tom Alexander, Nick Ross, Angus Fogg, and Lance Hughes rounded out the top nine finishers.
Sam Barry [pictured] shot to pole position and a win on his NZ Touring Car championship debut. Photo / Velocity NZ
In tenth was Sam Barry, reigning NZ V8 Ute champ and series debutant and winner of the class two field — impressing many having started the race from pole position in his Bel Group Dairy Farms ex-TL Ford Falcon.
“It was more than what I dreamed of doing coming into this weekend,” said Barry.
“My goal was to get a top three [finish] for the weekend. So to start off the pole and then get the race win, it's been a great start.”
Brock Cooley and Brad Lathrope completed the class two podium.
Race two of the NZ Touring Cars in Christchurch takes place tomorrow morning at 11.35am, with the category's third and final race scheduled for 2.15pm.
1. André Heimgartner 2. Jason Bargwanna 3. Simon Evans 4. Tim Edgell 5. Mitchell Cunningham 6. Tom Alexander 7. Nick Ross 8. Angus Fogg 9. Lance Hughes 10. Sam Barry (class two) 11. Brock Cooley 12. Brad Lathrope 13. Liam MacDonald 14. Nathan Pilcher DNF. Simon Fleming DNF. Alyssa Clapperton