Heimgartner claims ‘special’ win on wet return to NZ

Oliver Caffrey |

Cam Waters earned pole for the opening Supercars race in Taupo, New Zealand.
Cam Waters earned pole for the opening Supercars race in Taupo, New Zealand.

Kiwi Andre Heimgartner has survived wild and wet conditions to win a dramatic first Supercars race in New Zealand since 2022.

The local hero claimed the second win of his career to give the diehard fans at Taupo International Motorsport Park a reward for watching on in heavy rain.

After two safety cars and numerous incidents across the field, Heimgartner celebrated his first win since 2021 at Tailem Bend, finishing in front of Shell V-Power pair Will Davison and Anton De Pasquale in the 60-lap race.

“It’s definitely a highlight for the Kiwi to win at home, it’s very special,” Heimgartner said.

“My family’s here, they don’t get to many races.

“Throughout the year, it’s up there with a Bathurst-type race for us.

“Being a Kiwi and watching ‘Murph’ (Greg Murphy) and Shane (van Gisbergen) and all those guys  as I was growing up and I was one of the ones in the grandstand cheering.”

Even before the rain set in on Saturday, drivers were expecting the unpredictable Taupo track to produce a chaotic race.

In commentary, Supercars legend Mark Skaife addressed “the most difficult conditions you can drive in”.

The drama began immediately after pole-sitter Cam Waters was taken out by Tim  Slade before turn one, forcing a safety car onto the circuit.

Waters battled on, finishing eighth, but the race was over for Slade, who qualified fourth.

“(I’m) super-disappointed. Hate to see it end that way. I had a really good start and I saw a gap there, then there wasn’t,” Slade said.

Brad Jones Racing’s Bryce Fullwood lost control and spun out on lap nine, bringing the safety car back out.

Ford threat Chaz Mostert suffered a disaster on lap 42, losing a rear wheel shortly after completing a pit-stop.

After being one of the fastest drivers during practice and qualifying, Mostert’s hopes ended, the driver yelling out “f***” over the radio when his tyre went flying off his Mustang. He finished 22nd.

Andre Heimgartner corners in the rain at Taupo.
Heimgartner mastered the conditions at a slippery Taupo track. (HANDOUT/SUPERCARS CHAMPIONSHIP)

Davison, who first raced in Supercars back in 2004, was thrilled to finish on the podium.

“It was just a real see-saw and probably some of the toughest conditions I’ve ever raced in,” he said.

Reigning champion Brodie Kostecki endured a tough return to the driver’s seat after missing the Bathurst and Melbourne rounds due to his dispute with Erebus.

In a memorable day for New Zealanders, young gun Ryan Wood came in fourth and Bathurst 1000 winner Richie Stanaway finished sixth.

After the closure of Pukekohe Raceway in 2022, the touring car series stayed solely in Australia last year.

But Taupo, about three hours south of Auckland, capably hosted a thrilling race.

The second race of the Taupo 400 will start at 3.05pm local time (1.05pm AEST) on Sunday.

That race will decide the winner of the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy. Richards  raced for Brad Jones before his death due to cancer in 2011.

SUPERCARS TAUPO 400 RACE ONE

1. Andre Heimgartner (Brad Jones Racing)

2. Will Davison (Shell V-Power)

3. Anton De Pasquale (Shell V-Power)

4. Ryan Wood (Walkinshaw Andretti United)

5. Jack Le Brocq (Erebus)

AAP