Can Heimgartner return BJR to winners’ circle in Townsville?

Andre Heimgartner. Picture: Ross Gibb

Andre Heimgartner has stopped short of declaring himself a victory contender this weekend at the NTI Townsville 500.

The in-form Kiwi has become a regular front-runner as the 2022 Repco Supercars Championship has progressed, and was fastest of all yesterday in north Queensland.

Heimgartner told his Brad Jones Racing crew before the start of the season that they would win a race before the Holden ZB Commodore is farewelled in favour of the 2023 Gen3 Chevrolet Camaro.

But despite signs pointing towards a possible climax at the Reid Park Street Circuit, Heimgartner says more work needs to be done before he can seriously challenge for a second career win in the main game.

Tickford Racing’s Cameron Waters and Triple Eight Race Engineering’s Shane van Gisbergen collectively swept the five race wins in Townsville last year, and finished Practice 2 yesterday hot on the heels of Heimgartner in second and third, respectively.

BJR last tasted victory in 2020 via Nick Percat, twice at Sydney Motorsport Park.

“I think it’s too early to tell,” Heimgartner admitted of his chances of standing on the top step of the podium this weekend.

“You have got to have more than just a fast car in one lap.

“That has been our weakness especially over the last few rounds, we just haven’t been able to hang onto podium positions because of the race pace, so that is something we have to work on before we worry about trying to win a race right now.”

Nevertheless, the #8 R&J Batteries car should be somewhere in the mix for a strong result in Race 19 this afternoon, with Townsville a happy hunting ground of BJR’s for some time now.

“The BJR car is pretty strong here so they sort of know what they’re playing with, which is handy,” said the 27-year-old.

“So for us it’s just tuning to the conditions and trying to stay in the game as such, it seems to be pretty consistent.

“We have carried on a pretty familiar theme since Perth which has worked for us and it seems to be working so far.”

Heimgartner’s form has made the likes of van Gisbergen take notice, the championship leader enjoying seeing another New Zealander fly the flag at the pointy end of the field.

“When Fabian [Coulthard] and Scotty [McLaughlin] have gone, it’s diluted it a bit,” said van Gisbergen in relation to what had been a Kiwi dominance of Supercars.

“But obviously having Andre and the others [is good], and Richie [Stanaway] will be back for Bathurst.

“Hopefully Supercars in New Zealand is going to be good, like going there last week and seeing everyone, they’re starved for top level motorsport there so I can’t wait to get over there. And if we’re both up the front, it’s going to be awesome.

“Normally the Kiwi guys don’t care who it is, just as long as it’s one of us, so hopefully we’re strong there.”

This September, Supercars will race in New Zealand for the first time since 2019.

But for now, all eyes are on Round 7 of the season, with Qualifying for Race 19 beginning at 09:50 AEST this morning.

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