There have been a host of great V8 Supercar drivers to come out of New Zealand; Greg Murphy, Paul Radisich, Steven Richards, Shane van Gisbergen, Scott McLaughlin, Fabian Coulthard…all hailed from the land of the long white cloud. Now, there is another name to add to the list, Andre Heimgartner.
Racing for the all Kiwi Super Black Racing, Heimgartner has the pressure of a nation on his shoulders. In his rookie season, the 20 year old from Auckland has earned himself a number of high profile supporters – namely Prodrive Racing Australia boss Tim Edwards.
Although there have been some tough times, as there are in any debut season, Heimgartner’s performance so far in 2015 is highly rated by Edwards.
“He is doing a good job and he has certainly got the car speed,” Edwards says. “It’s his first year and he’s learning and there is no doubt the he is under pressure because he is driving with some of the best drivers in the category. Certainly it is hard for a young guy when he has got guys like Winterbottom, Mostert and Dave Reynolds as his team mates, because they are not slouches and it just adds to the pressure on him. He is an attacking driver, but he is also a realist as well. He knows that every race is a learning experience for him.”
A graduate of the Dunlop Series, Heimgartner is already refining his V8 Supercar skills to become a skillful braker.
“Under braking, he is just exceptional,” Edwards explains, noting his performance in the Tyrepower Tasmania Super Sprint at the start of the year.
“When you looked at the data, under braking for turn 4, compared to the other 3 drivers in Tassie, he was very, very smooth. Looking at his braking traces, the way you best describe him is he almost looks like a left-foot braker. You normally see a little pressure spike when a driver blips the throttle. With him, there is nothing like that. That is exceptional.”
As a man who hand-picked Chaz Mostert from the Dunlop Series for the Pepsi Max Crew, Edwards is well qualified to make such statements. The Prodrive boss says he sees a number of winning qualities within the Super Black Racing driver.
“He will be a winner in this championship,” Edwards says. “He has traits that show me that he will be a race winner – and whether that is this year, it is hard to say. The category is so incredibly tight and even to be in the top 10 is an outstanding performance in itself. It’s so close – but he definitely has the raw speed, no doubt.”
It hasn’t been an easy introduction to V8 Supercars for Heimgartner, with the on track biff catching him by surprise at a number of events. However, he has continued to rally and improve his performance with each round. Give it a few more years and the Aussies will have another Kiwi causing them all kinds of headaches.
As seen in the 2015 V8 Supercars Official Program.