Heimgartner edges D’Alberto in opening TCR practice

Andre Heimgartner

Andre Heimgartner narrowly topped opening practice at the TCR Australia Series finale at The Bend Motorsport Park from Tony D’Alberto.

Heimgartner was just 0.0082s faster than D’Alberto (Wall Racing, Honda), the Kelly Racing Opel Astra having set the fastest time midway through the uninterrupted 30 minute session.

D’Alberto was the first to bank a time, his 2:04.7600s immediately bettered by Aaron Cameron (Melbourne Performance Centre, Volkswagen), John Martin (Wall Racing, Honda), Heimgartner, and Tim Brook (Garage1, Cupra).

Dylan O’Keeffe (Ash Seward Motorsport, Alfa Romeo) kept his powder dry in the opening moments, completing an installation lap before returning to the pits where he sat for three minutes.

Others also dived for the lane, though with the exception of series winner Will Brown (HMO Customer Racing, Hyundai) only after completing a timed lap.

Times rapidly fell, Heimgartner’s best of 1:58.1408 snipping four seconds off the early markers.

Jason Bright (Alliance Autosport) slowed midway through the session, the Volkswagen driver limping the car around the lap after dropping a wheel and cutting a tyre.

The Bathurst 1000 winner had set the 12th best time of the session to that point with a 2:05.6454s, but the damage to the guard as a result of the flailing tyre carcass ruled him out for the remainder of the session.

Alexandra Whitley in the sister Volkswagen was also light on laps, having completed just a single tour before returning to the pits where she remained for much of the session.

O’Keeffe went fastest after 15 minutes, his 1:57.4388 bettering Heimgartner’s time by seven tenths.

Debutant James Allen (Ash Seward Motorsport, Alfa Romeo) was also rapid, improving to a 1:58.4059s to briefly hold third before Nathan Morcom (HMO Customer Racing, Hyundai) went 0.03s faster.

Heimgartner returned fire on O’Keeffe, returning to the top of the time sheets courtesy of a 1:57.318s with 12 minutes to run in the 30 minute session.

A 1:57.3262 lap from D’Alberto saw him slip between Heimgartner and O’Keeffe, just 0.0082s off top spot and barely more than a tenth quicker than O’Keeffe.

Liam McAdam (Melbourne Performance Centre, Audi) had a moment, the Audi driver running wide midway around the lap with three minutes to play, though was able to rejoin without further incident.

When the chequered flag fell Heimgartner held the fastest representative lap, D’Alberto listed as having banked a clearly erroneous 1:31.8664s.

Behind Heimgartner was O’Keeffe, Allen, Chris Pither, Cameron, Morcom, McAdam, Chelsea Angelo, and Brown.

Brook made an early appearance in the Cupra early in the session, fading after he chose to stop with more than 10 minutes remaining in the session, while the Peugeot of Aurélien Comte failed to take to the circuit.

Ending the session 11th fastest, Martin was towed back to the pits at the conclusion after stopping as a result of an alarm light appearing on his dash during the session.

The TCR Australia Series is next on track at 1605 ACDT.

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