Flying Kiwi edges up the table
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HEIMGARTNER’S NEW CAR COULD MAKE BIG DIFFERENCE ON OZ V8 SUPERCARS CIRCUIT
While not quite a historic occasion, more like a whopping great step in the right direction, last weekend at Pukekohe saw the two domestic V8 categories combine on the same grid for the first time. The sight of 20 V8 machines (TLX, TL and SuperTourers) lined up was heartening for fans at the South Auckland track.
Organisers will deal with parity between the classes during the off-season so the bigger-engined SuperTourers made the running. Simon Evans won the SuperTourer series title with Aussie Jason Bargwanna winning the TLX championship and Kevin Williams the NZV8 national title.
A recent Kiwi addition to the V8 Supercars with the New Zealand team Super Black Racing, Andre Heimgartner kept Evans honest, picking up his first race win in the local series on Saturday.
Driven took the opportunity to check how the 19-year-old is dealing with pressures of battling with some of the world’s best saloon car racers in Australia.
“It’s pretty hard, that’s for sure, and a massive step up from the Development Series,” said Heimgartner.
“It’s good that the touring class is back together here as we need it to help the young drivers come through.
“It’s also good for me to be here [Pukekohe] and get some more race miles under my belt before our next race in Perth [V8 Supercars].
“The category is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and is the hardest touring car championship in the world.”
The young Kiwi was at pains at the start of the V8 Supercars season to say this is a learning and building year for himself and the team. After a solid, safe start over the opening two rounds Heimgartner arrived in Tasmania for the third round with a new Ford FGX.
The new car proved to be just what the team needed and Heimgartner was soon making inroads into the top 15 in Tasmania, and by race three had notched up his first top 10 finish crossing the line in eighth.
“The new car has a better rear aero package that stops the back of the car moving around so much and is more stable under brakes,” he said.
“It’s still baby steps at the moment and we’re still learning. We were hoping for top 15 with the new car and getting into the top 10 now means if we get 15th we’ll be disappointed.
“The series is so tight and all the drivers are so good that a few tenths of a second can mean qualifying on either the front row, or 15th.”
Many of the drivers had been around for a while, and as a new guy they had tried to push him around.
“It’s lot more door-to-door than other classes,” he said.
In the first two rounds, Heimgartner was piloting an older model while everyone else, especially the Holden drivers, had later models. Now that the Kiwi and the rest of the Prodrive Racing Australia (formally Ford Performance Racing) team have their new cars, fans can be sure he’ll be challenging the front of the field from now on.
He sits 14th in the championship, and the next round of the V8 Supercars is the Perth Super Sprint, May 1-3.