It was a long time coming but Australia’s premier motorsport category, theVirgin Australia Supercars Championship, finally fired into life for the first time on the weekend in Sydney.
For Andre Heimgartner it was a welcome return too – weeks of training and simulator racing couldn’t quite match the adrenalin of a V8Supercar. His enthusiasm was evident making an immediate impression on track.
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the weekend’s format was a little different to the ‘usual’ with a range of rules and regulations implemented.
The action was packed into two full days. Saturday kicked off with two back-to-back practice sessions before heading into Qualifying for Race One. Qualifying was broken into three-parts and Heimgartner easily made it through to the second Qualifying session, however lost time on his final flying lap and decided to sit tight rather than burn through more tyres. Race One would see the NED Whiskey Mustang start from P16, after just missing out on the Top-15 Shootout.
With a reasonable race start and gaining one position in the opening lap, Heimgartner opted for the long first stint on tyres, however was caught in traffic behind a struggling Fabian Coulthard. Although the #7 Mustang had the pace to run further up the field, navigating through traffic proved tricky and 15th was all Heimgartner could manage.
“It felt so good to be back racing,” admitted Heimgartner.
“I think overall, we had pretty good pace on Saturday. We were quick in practice, unfortunately I wasn’t able to maximise the lap on green tyres in Qualifying and just missed out on the Top-15 Shootout. If we bolted another set on and went again, we probably could have done better; but then you burn up another set of tyres when we were already limited.
“In the race we went for a longer first stint on tyres, which ultimately hurt us because we were stuck in traffic for the majority of the race and couldn’t really press on and move up through the field, but 15th isn’t too bad for a first race back.”
Andre was able to qualify well again come Sunday, putting his NED Whiskey Mustang in P6 ahead of Race 8 and 13th for the final race of the weekend.
While the 25-year old dropped a couple of positions at the start of Race 8, he fought hard and by the end of the first few laps had passed Anton De Pasquale, Fabian Coulthard and Shane Van Gisbergen. Now in seventh, Heimgartner went for an early pitstop which didn’t pay off after tyre degradation got the better of him. Heimgartner was unable to defend his position, crossing the line in P10.
The #7 Mustang started the final race from 13th, however battled with car balance for majority of the race, ultimately finishing in 15th.
“Sunday was a bit of a tough day for us. We’re obviously still learning and adjusting to the new car and we just couldn’t get the balance right. It wasn’t too bad in qualifying and the first race, but still not ideal,” said the 25-year old.
“We had pretty good pace initially and were able to make up some spots, but in the second stint the tyres just completely fell off a cliff towards the end and I couldn’t defend against the guys behind and only just hung onto a top-ten.
“The final race is where we really felt we were a fair way off the pace, just didn’t have the balance to push forward, but we’ll get there. It’s still early days for us with the Mustang and the engine package, but hopefully now that we’re back and racing we should be able to make some improvements ahead of Winton.”
The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship next head to Victoria for the Truck Assist Winton SuperSprint, July 18-19.