Kiwi V8 Supercars rookie Andre Heimgartner took a major step forward when he finished as the leading New Zealander in Townsville today.
The Super Black Racing driver finished eighth in race 17 over 200km at the Castrol EDGE Townville 400, his best finish in the Kiwi team’s debut season.
Championship leader Mark Winterbottom extended his advantage with back-to-back wins in North Queensland, holding off the hard charging James Courtney with Ford’s David Reynolds grabbing his second podium of the weekend.
What started as a record qualifying effort for the Kiwi drivers, with all four in the top seven, turned into a disappointment.
Pole-setter Scott McLaughlin was forced to withdraw with a mechanical issues, Fabian Coulthard slipped one spot to third in the championship after a drive-through penalty saw him back to 13th today, while Shane van Gisbergen ran out of tyres to limp home in 20th.
However it proved an outstanding day for Super Black Racing after the 20-year-old Heimgartner grabbed seventh place on the grid after the shootout and the team worked the strategy well to see the Kiwi Ford driver finish strongly.
Winterbottom now has a 248 point lead in the championship from Craig Lowndes with Coulthard third. Van Gisbergen drops back to ninth with McLaughlin, who jumped up six spots yesterday, back in 17th while Heimgartner jumps two places to 22nd.
In a tense battle, Winterbottom made the pass for the lead on fellow Ford stablemate Reynolds late in the 70 lap race, cautious not to knock out his teammate as he took first place and drove on to win the race by nearly three seconds.
But Reynolds dropped back to third as Courtney pushed up through the field, grabbing second on lap 67 following a tense pass on his teammate Garth Tander after Courtney took out Tander in the past two races.
Red Bull’s Jamie Whincup managed to finish fifth ahead of Chas Mostert, with Craig Lowndes also recovering from a poor qualifying for ninth.
The next V8 Supercars event is the Coates Hire Ipswich SuperSprint, running from July 31 to August 2.
Tickets are now on sale for the sole New Zealand round of the V8 Supercars Championships at the ITM 500 Auckland at Pukekohe Park Raceway on 6-8 November through www.ticketek.co.nz.