Rising V8 Supercars star Andre Heimgartner will take the next step in his career this weekend when he joins reigning champions MW Motorsport for the start of the 2014 Dunlop Series.
The 18-year-old joins MWM following a promising rookie year in the second-tier class driving a Triple Eight-built, Finance Ezi-supported, Falcon.
Heimgartner continues with backing from Finance Ezi this year and enjoyed his first taste of MWM’s ex-Ford Performance Racing equipment at a test day at Winton Motor Raceway last Monday.
Impressed with his new driver, team principal Matthew White says he’s looking forward to working with the talented New Zealander throughout the season.
“I’d like to think that the Finance Ezi Falcon can be in the top five this season,” said White ahead of the season-opener in Adelaide.
“Andre has shown speed in a number of different classes now and we were very impressed with him at the test.
“He’s still very young so we’ve got to work with him on race craft and when to take risks.
“I think that if we can be in the top five throughout the year and challenge for a race win here or there it will be a great effort for a young guy in a quality field.”
Heimgartner is also competing in New Zealand’s V8 SuperTourer Series this year, ensuring he has already raced twice prior to the opening Dunlop Series round.
MWM will field three Falcons at the Clipsal 500, with Heimgartner joined by fellow youngsters Morgan Haber and Ryan Simpson.
Having won five of the seven rounds in 2013, the team has been further bolstered this year by a new engine supply deal with KRE.
The Queensland-based firm has powered Jamie Whincup and Triple Eight to victory in the last three consecutive V8 Supercars Championships.
The Dunlop Series will contest a pair of 27 lap races across Friday (from 1815) and Saturday (from 1745) at the Clipsal 500, which again promises to draw in excess of 250,000 spectators to the Adelaide Parklands over its four days.
See below for a Question & Answer with Andre Heimgartner ahead of the new season
QUESTION: Andre, you had your first run with the team at Winton last week. How did you find it?
ANSWER: Stepping into the championship winning team and cars from last year I thought it would be impressive and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
I was able to gain a lot of confidence in the car throughout the day and feel that it was a lot better than what I had last year.
I’m still improving my driving, but we have a great base to start with. I can’t wait to get to Adelaide and see what unfolds.
QUESTION: What do you feel like you need to improve on from last year to make that next step?
ANSWER: The experience of last season will be a great help because now I know more of what to expect.
I’ve really got to work on being consistent. Last year we showed speed at some rounds but had bad luck at others.
We’ll need to improve that as well as making sure we’re qualifying towards the front.
When you qualify further back in the pack that’s where the trouble happens early in the races. We want to be in front of that.
QUESTION: What do you think of the move to have separate qualifying sessions for the races this season?
ANSWER: I like it because last year we were turned around in the first race a couple of times which just destroyed your whole weekend under the old format.
This year the races are a bit longer as well. I think the combination of those two things really means it’s the year to be in a good car.
You’re going to need to qualify well and have a car that will be consistent over the whole race.
QUESTION: Looking at the field, do you think you can challenge for the title?
ANSWER: We’ll give it our best shot. I’m not one to talk myself up, but the team and I are all pretty confident that we’ll have a good year.
We’ve got to concentrate on taking it step by step and seeing how it goes.
QUESTION: Does it help to have raced in the SuperTourers in New Zealand during the pre-season?
ANSWER: Yes, it’s great to have those recent race miles under my belt.
Coming into the Dunlop Series I’ve already done two Super Tourer rounds, two days with Dick Johnson Racing (a ride day at Lakeside and a test at Sydney Motorsport Park) and the test with MWM.
I feel like I’m going into the Dunlop Series really well prepared, which should give me a slight advantage over some of the other guys.