André Heimgartner returns to Kiwi V8 series in style with Pukekohe victory
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On his return to the New Zealand BNT V8s, Andre Heimgartner has claimed victory at the 20-lap Pukekohe Park series opener.
From pole Heimgartner claimed the start and the lead by turn one. But it wasn't straightforward for the returning racer. A mistake saw him lose the lead to teammate Lance Hughes in the early running. Hughes had been shadowing Heimgartner early on with an impressive turn of pace, and a curious battle looked likely.
However, Hughes ended up dropping back with a mystery issue, which allowed Ford Mustang campaigner Sam Collins into the fray. Through the traffic it appeared that Collins and his screaming Mustang was catching Heimgartner, however the Kelly Racing Supercars pilot was able to fend him off to claim the win by just over four seconds with Hughes completing the podium.
Missing from action was former champion Nick Ross. The Nissan Altima ace would've been a contender to challenge Heimgartner for outright places, but an engine failure in qualifying ensured he wouldn't make the grid.
Collins had initially been part of a spirited dice for the minor overall placings with the debuting Alexandra Whitley, Rob Wallace, Blair MacDonald, and Brad Lathrope. With Collins eventually graduating to the top three overall and then the top two, it left Whitley and Wallace at the head of the battle pack. Wallace and his newly acquired Class One Holden VE Commodore showed impressive pace, but a spin at turn four handed MacDonald fourth place and Whitley fifth.
Beyond the top five Lathrope and Wallace took sixth and seventh, ahead of debutante Brayden Phillips in eighth overall, driving a former Craig Baird Ford Falcon NZ SuperTourer. Eric Hennephof and Shayne Whitley rounded out the top 10.
In the Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship, Jaden Ransley won the series opener comfortably over Trans-Tasman rival Jaylyn Robotham, with Brock Gilchrist fighting to third place. In the Ryco 24.7 V8 Ute series Paul Manuel claimed a clear-cut win over Glen Collinson and Matt Spratt.
Elsewhere, Cameron Jones held off a spirited charge from John De Veth in the GT1/2 race — Cameron's rotary-powered Chevrolet Camaro Trans-Am narrowly holding off a race-long pursuit from the rapid Crawford DP03 Daytona prototype.
There are two more BNT V8 races set to take place at Pukekohe Park tomorrow, with GTRNZ, the V8 Ute series, Toyota 86 Championship, SsangYong Rhino Race Series, Pirelli Porsche series, and more in action.