New Supercars race winner Heimgartner almost quit racing for finance job

Supercars' newest race winner Andre Heimgartner says he was days away from quitting racing to pursue a career in finance in 2017.

New Supercars race winner Heimgartner almost quit racing for finance job

The Kiwi was at that point out of a full-time Supercars ride, having lost seats with Prodrive Racing Australia and LD Motorsport at the end of the pervious two seasons.

He then spent the 2017 season racing in Carrera Cup and even missed out on a full-time enduro drive in Supercars. 

With nothing on the horizon for the following season Heimgartner made the decision to walk away from racing and work as a finance broker.

That was until he got an unexpected call-up mid-way through the Bathurst 1000 weekend to replace Ash Walsh alongside Tim Slade at Brad Jones Racing. 

Walsh had been hurt in a testing crash at Phillip Island several weeks earlier and, after trying to drive the car in practice, elected to sit out the rest of the enduro campaign. 

Heimgartner was solid at Bathurst before putting in a storming drive in wet conditions on the Gold Coast to help net a third place for him and Slade.

That caught the eye of Kelly Grove Racing team owner/driver Todd Kelly who was planning to retire from driving at the end of that season.

Podium: Race winner Andre Heimgartner, Kelly Grove Racing Ford, second place Chaz Mostert, Walkinshaw Andretti United Holden, third place Anton de Pasquale, Dick Johnson Racing Ford

Podium: Race winner Andre Heimgartner, Kelly Grove Racing Ford, second place Chaz Mostert, Walkinshaw Andretti United Holden, third place Anton de Pasquale, Dick Johnson Racing Ford

Photo by: Edge Photographics

A meeting between Heimgartner, Kelly and Super2 team owner Matt White about a possible second-tier drive eventually led to Kelly deciding to give the Kiwi a third shot at the main game. 

"My career was basically over, I was getting ready to be a finance broker and be out of the sport," said Heimgartner after taking a sensational career first win at The Bend today. 

"There was nothing opening up. We were doing Carrera Cup and didn't have the money to fund anything to be back in Supercars. 

"It was the last round of Carrera Cup and it was going to be over after that. I didn't have any opportunities in Supercars, it was going to be over after that. 

"And then Ash Walsh hurt himself at Phillip Island and I got the co-drive with Slade. He put it third [on the grid on the Gold Coast] and I hopped in the car and it was just a jet. 

"I actually went into a meeting with [Kelly] to do DVS with them because Matt White had a sponsor. Todd was impressed and wanted to get me on board, so he rang me a week later and we managed to do a deal. 

"For me to get that opportunity was massive. 

"It's good to finally repay that. [Kelly] has done a lot for me, the whole family has and now the Groves."

While Heimgartner was a cut above the field in terms of pace in mixed conditions today, he had to work hard for the win after copping a five second penalty for an unsafe release.

The team elected not to tell Heimgartner about the penalty, although he says he worked it out himself based on the initial contact in the lane with Jamie Whincup.

Reflecting on the matter he said he would have preferred the team to be upfront about the penalty so he could have managed the gap he needed.

"I knew we had a penalty, but [engineer Dylan Talibani] was telling me a different gap to what I was thinking," he said. 

"So I was pushing like hell on the last couple of laps. It almost stuffed me up.

"I knew [the penalty] was going to happen. It was fair, I pulled in front of him. 

"I was ready to pull back and then [car controller] Dennis [Huijser] said 'go go go' and I thought 'okay, he must know better than me' and then there was contact. 

"I was thinking 'oh shit, here we go again'. 

"I would rather have known [about the penalty]. Then I wouldn't have needed to push so hard in the last few laps."

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