Andre Heimgartner scores popular win in Taupō opener

Kiwi racer Andre Heimgartner gave the New Zealand fans reason to cheer with victory in the opening Supercars race of the weekend at Taupō International Motorsport Park.

The first ever Supercars event at the circuit would become a somewhat chaotic affair due to heavy rain that impacted on proceedings, with Heimgartner taking full advantage of a wheel issue for Chaz Mostert to emerge from the race with the victory – his first since 2021 and the first for Brad Jones Racing since 2020.

Cam Waters had earlier qualified on pole but any chance of him converting that into victory were ended early on when he clashed with Tim Slade off the line – with Slade ending up in the wall and Waters forced into the pits as the safety car was deployed.

When the action resumed, it was Will Brown who left the way in his Red Bull Chevrolet from Heimgartner and Mostert before a further safety car was required to recover the car of Bryce Fullwood after he was sent into a spin by Jack Le Brocq.

The whole field came in to stop during the caution, with Heimgartner jumping ahead of Brown but after the restart, the latter came under pressure from a charging Mostert, who got ahead into second spot before chasing down the leader.

Heimgartner, Mostert and Will Davison – who has passed a struggling Brown for third – then pitted together but Mostert was then forced to pit again when he lost a wheel due to an insecure nut, dropping him out of the lead battle.

That left Heimgartner clear at the front and although Davison would reduce the gap between the pair over the closing laps to get to little more than a second behind, the BJR man had enough in hand to secure the win, with Davison and Dick Johnson Racing team-mate Anton De Pasquale rounding out the podium behind.

Ryan Wood secured his best result to date as he took fourth spot for Walkinshaw Andretti United having managed to stay out of trouble in the treacherous conditions, with points leader Brown following him home in fifth.

Brown however would be handed a time penalty for an incident in the pits that saw an errant wheelnut roll across the lane which dropped him down to ninth, meaning Jack Le Brocq and Richie Stanaway instead rounded out the top six.

Despite that, Brown still extended his lead in the points, with team-mate Broc Feeney down outside the top 20.

Defending champion Brodie Kostecki had a low-key return to action, brining his Erebus Motorsport-run car home in 14th.

A further 60 lap race is scheduled for Sunday.