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Heimgartner feared being surpassed by next NZ wave

ANDRE Heimgartner has made the admission that amid a pre-Taupō slump, he feared his chance to finally be New Zealand’s Supercars hero might elude him.

Heimgartner had been there or thereabouts in previous rounds on home turf, one of five Kiwis to make the Top 10 Shootout for Race 2 in 2018, and scoring a double podium at the 2022 Pukekohe swansong.

The ultimate glory on those respective occasions though went to compatriots Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen.

And as a new era at Taupō loomed, the form guide had pointed to Matt Payne, Richie Stanaway or even rookie Ryan Wood as being the best bet for local fans.

But as the saying goes, ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’ and Heimgartner rose to the challenge to win a wet Saturday race and be the top Kiwi in the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy standings.

“When it was Scotty and Shane, I was hard up against it to try to get some love,” Heimgartner smiled on Supercars’ new digital program The Debrief.

Kiwi quintet Ryan Wood, Jaxon Evans, Andre Heimgartner, Richie Stanaway and Matt Payne at Taupō Motorsport Park. Pic: Supplied/Mark Horsburgh

“Then they started going and I thought ‘bloody awesome, I’ll be the main one here’ and then you have these fast guys in really good teams like Matt Payne, Richie Stanaway, Ryan Wood… I thought, ‘shit, I’m going to get forgotten about if I don’t pull something out of my bum here!’

“Then we go and win that first race. It was so special on so many levels and again we came so close to the Jason Richards Trophy – one spot would have sealed it. We were third at Pukekohe the last time we raced there for the trophy too.

“I would love to find some of that magic we find in New Zealand for the rest of the rounds.”

Heimgartner also noted how team owner Brad Jones has taken on a more hands-on approach of late.

“Brad has taken a bit more of a forward role, which is awesome,” said the #8 Camaro driver.

“He gets so busy, as you do, running a team and doing the commercial thing, it has actually been really good having him more involved in the technical side and using his experience; even just with direction, where he thinks we should go, it has been quite good.

“Even with just rallying the troops together like ‘stuff it, this isn’t working, we’re going a different direction’ and getting us all together, it has been really good.”

While Taupō proved tricky for Bryce Fullwood and Macauley Jones, it was also a positive weekend for BJR’s other Kiwi, Jaxon Evans, who claimed the first top 10 of his main game career.

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