Sunday, April 14, 2024

Maiden Supercars podium for Heimgartner on the Gold Coast

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Andre Heimgartner and Tim Slade were in great form in the opening race of the Gold Coast 600 yesterday. Photos Dirk Klynsmith Photography

Andre Heimgartner (Dannemora) and Tim Slade took third in the opening race of the Gold Coast 600 yesterday, with Heimgartner drawing plenty of attention with a blistering drive in soggy conditions that saw him hand the #14 over to Slade in the lead with an 18 second gap over the nearest contenders.

It is the first Supercars podium for Heimgartner, with his drive yesterday drawing plenty of praise from series pundits and commentators who were particularly impressed by the 22-year-old’s performance given his status as a late call-up to the drive.

After Slade qualified the car in third, Heimgartner started the race on the second row of the grid and was soon challenging the leaders – Steve Owen and Paul Dumbrell – for the race lead.

The 22-year-old took advantage of Dumbrell trying to overtake Owen to make a pass into P2 on lap six, before getting by Owen on lap nine to take the race lead.

From there, the Melbourne-based Kiwi put his head down and set the fastest lap of the race multiple times over the next 28 laps, consistently growing his lap over the nearest contenders to be as much as 19 seconds.

On lap 37, he handed over to Tim Slade and sat back to watch the main driver of the car go to work. Slade rejoined in third behind two cars who were yet to stop, before rising back to the lead two laps later.

He led until lap 56, when the #14 was brought in for its final pit stop. Unfortunately, drama struck here with a 10 second lead eliminated when a freak air jack placement issue saw delays in taking off and replacing the left rear tyre. Slade rejoined in third position and fended off an advancing Shane van Gisbergen to bring the Freightliner Racing entry home for the third step of the podium.

Andre Heimgartner (in blue) celebrates after a well-earned podium yesterday.

“What a day it has been today. I got a good start and just put my head down and tried to race my own race. Once the gap got out to around 15 seconds I was concentrating hard on not throwing it away – I had to bring the car home in the best position possible for Slade and I was really pleased that I was able to do that,” Heimgartner said.

“The car was amazing, I had to have a really good car under me to do what I did in my stint and I can’t thank the guys and girls at Freightliner Racing and Brad Jones Racing enough for what they gave Tim and I today – it was fantastic.

“What happened in the pit stop was unfortunate but Chaz was pretty quick and I don’t think we could have held him off at the end there, and to clinch my first Supercars podium here is very exciting. I couldn’t be happier!

“I really have to take a beat here to thank my sponsor group – it has been a mammoth past month for me between Bathurst and China last weekend and now here on the Gold Coast, and I couldn’t be doing what I am doing without their support.”

Now, Heimgartner looks ahead to not only another Supercars race on the streets of the Gold Coast today, but also two races in the Carrera Cup Australia category, in which he is currently second in the points.

“Tomorrow (Sunday) is another big day. Hopefully it is going to be dry and we can give it a good go and try and follow up today’s results with another good position,” he said.

“In the Carrera Cup, there are just two more races for the year and they will both be held tomorrow. I have 68 points between David Wall and I for the title, so you can rest assured I will be throwing everything at it tomorrow (Sunday)!”

Sunday’s action for Heimgartner will kick off at 8.05am with the second race of the weekend for the Carrera Cup, before qualifying for Supercars’ race 22 gets going at 9.45am. The Armor All Top Ten Shootout will then be held at 11.40am, before Andre suits up for race three of the Carrera Cup at 1.05pm. Race 22 of the Supercars Championship will then kick-off at 2.25pm.

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