Australian Supercars racer Andre Heimgartner is the latest established New Zealand driver to sign up for the season-opening Toyota Racing Series round at Hampton Downs.
Heimgarnter, a two-time NZ Formula Ford champion early in his career, will be racing in an attempt to win the New Zealand Grand Prix which is the final race of the weekend.
“I have done quite a bit of Formula Ford in the earlier seasons of my career between 2009 and 2013,” said Heimgartner.
“I did several series including the South Island FFord championship and the NZ FFord championship and won a few. I did some FFord in Australia around that time too but at that stage the question was really which direction I wanted my career to go in. For us we didn’t have the money to go over to Europe and pursue single-seater racing there.
“That meant I never did the TRS series back then because of that and because of the direction we chose. At the time I was pretty upset about that because growing up we had high level top-tier motorsport in New Zealand.
“The early years of TRS were part of that of course with some great names in New Zealand and international racing. Dan Gaunt, Earl Bamber, Mitch Evans and many more and I used to watch them and think it would be awesome to race them. But it wasn’t to be and we headed over to Australia and obviously it has worked out well for me.”
In 2018 he won the title in NZ Touring Cars, the country’s answer to the Supercars championship, and last year finished a career-best 14th in Australia’s premier series.
“The prospect of racing in the New Zealand Grand Prix is very exciting for me though. It is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time and it’s definitely a bucket list item.
“I’ve obviously watched it many times and followed it since I was young, seeing the likes of Kenny Smith come back again and again. The car is very exciting. Modern, fast, challenging to drive. There’s plenty of aero and it’s very different to a V8 Supercar which has lots of power and not much grip. The single-seater is lighter has more grip but less horsepower.”
Also set to make the transition into Regional Formula 3 machinery from a Supercar is Shane van Gisbergen.
“It’s going to be interesting and I’m not going to put any pressure on myself,” added Heimgartner.
“These young kids, they’re bloody fast. You only need to watch them race once to see that. I almost feel like an old guy at 25. It will be very interesting and drivers will go into it aiming to have fun. But of course when the gloves are on and we get into the cars, we only want to win.”