Strong start to 2016 for Heimgartner

| Photographer Credit: Nathan Wong

Kiwi New Zealand speedster Andre Heimgartner has got his 2016 V8 Supercars season and his tenure with Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport off to a strong start at this weekend’s Clipsal 500.

In what was his first ever competitive outing with the LDM outfit – which meant working with a new car and new engineer (Barry Hall) – the 20 year old Kiwi put in a stoic effort to score points and improve in every race, despite a chaotic race of attrition which caused problems for a large portion of the field this afternoon.

With race results of 22nd (race one), 20th (race two) and 19th (race three), Heimgartner has now accumulated 72 points towards his V8 Supercar championship tally.

“It has been a huge weekend, and while today was certainly interesting, overall I am happy with our opening round with LDM,” said Heimgartner, who thanks sponsors Superlux Lighting Ltd, Civiltrain Ltd and Land Development Ltd as well as team sponsors SP Tools and Repair Management Australia for their support.

“With it being our first event with a new team, a new car, and working with Barry Hall for the first time, it was always going to be a big learning weekend and I think that we have started a solid foundation on which we can build this season.”

Heimgartner’s time at the Clipsal 500 started off strong, with the young racer laying down the 17th quickest time in the field in the #3 SP Tools LDM Holden before an engine misfire issue raised its head.

That issue would continue throughout Friday’s two qualifying sessions (for Saturday’s two races), however come race day the team had rectified the issue and he would improve on his starting position (24th) in both of the 125km stanzas despite searing temperatures and plenty of intense battles for position.

“Both of Saturday’s races were very intense – we were battling for position with Tim Blanchard, Lee Holdsworth, David Reynolds and also our team-mate Nick Percat there at various intervals,” said Heimgartner.

“At the end of each of Saturday’s race I was suffering tyre-wise and that was especially true for the first race, so that was something we had to manage, but I was happy that we were able to go wheel to wheel with some really experienced racers and come away with a straight car and a solid result in what were our very first competitive outings with the team and this car.”

Much discussion was held over the weekend about the weather, with the mercury soaring to 39 degrees ambient and more than 65 degrees in the car on both Saturday and early Sunday before incredible Summer storms hit the track just as the race was to begin, and again in its midst – causing a start under Safety Car and a 14 minute red flag period in the final hour.

“The first race on Saturday was easily the hottest race I have ever had,” said Heimgartner. “The heat really knocks you around, but that is why we train, so we can race in those kinds of conditions and so we can recover quickly to do it all again.

“To go from that blistering heat to a complete downpour, thunder and lightning and heavy wind was just crazy, and it certainly made that last race of the weekend a very intense and challenging one.

“The car had good potential, and during qualifying in the morning we had more in it than was shown by the times. We qualified 19th, but I was on a flying lap right at the end of the session and unfortunately ran into some traffic. We could have been another four or five positions up the grid I think.

“Regardless, we were happy to be continuing to improve our results as we went through the weekend, and things started well. We ran as high as 3rd early, but unfortunately we lost a chunk of time in the garage with a bent tie rod following contact with another racer, and that saw us forced to just concentrate on bringing it home amidst safety cars, restarts and very slippery conditions.

“Congratulations really has to go to the team and to my team-mate Nick Percat on a brilliant win this afternoon – it all came together for them and they played a great strategy. I can’t wait to get back into it and build on what we have learnt this weekend.”

While the Clipsal 500 may now be over, Heimgartner won’t be long out of the seat, returning to his native New Zealand this weekend for an endurance event at Hampton Downs before his adopted home town of Melbourne hosts a non-championship round of V8 Supercars racing at the Australian Grand Prix the following weekend (March 17-20).

Benjamin Carrell is a freelance motorsport writer and currently edits He writes for a number of Kiwi drivers and motorsport clubs. That's when he's not working in his horticultural day-job or training for the next road or mtb cycle race!

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