There is no doubt that Kiwi driver Andre Heimgartner will be a superstar of Australasian motorsport. However, he had a tough induction into the V8 Supercar Championship in 2015, and at present has no full-time ride in an Aussie V8 for 2016. We caught up with Heimgartner about his plans for this year, V8s, GTs, racing here at home in New Zealand, and what really went on at Super Black Racing.
NZV8: You have one season under your belt in the V8 Supercar main series; in hindsight, do you think you were ready to step up to the main series?
Andre Heimgartner: You’re never going to be 100-per-cent ready; the jump from DVS (Development Series) to the main game is so great that it’s always going to be a big learning experience. Long story short, I would like to have done another year of DVS just to get my skills sorted, but I don’t think it had a massive effect on me.
How do you think your season went? Were you happy with your performance?
Overall, I’m very happy and I can hold my head high. I proved a lot of people wrong, which is really good. There are always going to be areas where you think or wish you could have done better, but at the end of the day I did all I could and I had some good results along the way. There were a couple [of] high points: the top 10 shootout at Townsville and qualifying third at Queensland Raceway.
What was a low point?
Bathurst 1000, when we got taken out — plus not completing the season.
Did you want to stay with Super Black? Were there options to go to other teams?
Of course, I wanted to stay with Super Black, as the team and I were bonding well. I feel our performances were getting stronger and stronger, too, so it would have been nice to continue into next season. I had a few options with other teams for this season but they all required me to bring sponsorship and, unfortunately, what happened with Super Black at the end didn’t give my support team and me much time to get a budget together.
Do you think the whole situation with Chris Pither could have been handled better by the team?
Yeah, it’s no secret that it was handled in a less-than-desirable way. We were very disappointed not to finish off the year, of course. We were leading the race for the Rookie of the Year award, so to lose that was also disappointing. We had built up strong relationships within the team over the year, so it wasn’t good for team morale either. They had their reasons; this sport is very much about money nowadays, so I can understand why they did what they did.
You are still young, but do you feel you have unfinished business in V8 Supercars?
Definitely. I’m only 20, and I am still learning every time I go out onto the track. You really need at least two years in the main game to get the hang of it, so I definitely want to return and prove I deserve to be in a seat full time.
Are you looking to secure an enduro role with a team for this season?
Yes, 100 per cent — hopefully I’ll have something confirmed soon.
You’ve secured yourself a drive in an Audi GT3 in the Australian GT series; that must be an exciting opportunity?
It is very exciting! It opens up opportunities for me not only in Australia but throughout the world. If I can do well against factory drivers such as Chris Mies then that can help me a lot.
You’re back in the BNT NZ Touring Cars, and you had a great return at Ruapuna, with two wins and the round win. It must be good to show Australian teams what you’re capable of?
Yeah, it’s good to be back! It’s interesting, too; I haven’t raced in the championship since I did my V8 Supercar season so it’s cool to see how much I have progressed as a driver.
It must be a good confidence booster to come back home and put on a good show?
Yeah, it is; it’s really cool to have some good racing with some good people, and get the enjoyment back into the motorsport, because that’s the reason we all started racing in the first place.
The SuperTourer series is really where you cut your teeth in touring car racing; do you enjoy racing in the class, which we now know as NZ Touring Cars?
The SuperTourer is special to me because, between the ages of 16 and 19, it was one of the main tools I used to develop into the driver I am today. I love racing the cars and feel 100 per cent at home in them.
You can catch Andre Heimgartner in action at the BNT NZ Touring Cars at Manfeild on February 12–14, or at Pukekohe Park Raceway on April 16–17.