It’s been a weekend of firsts at The Bend Motorsport Park as different drivers took to the top step of the podium in each of the OTR Supersprint The Bend’s three races.
The weekend’s three races started off with Kelly Grove Racing’s Andre Heimgartner securing his maiden Repco Supercars Championship career victory after 161 attempts.
Having qualified on pole, the New Zealander essentially led the field from lights out to the chequered flag, and although he picked up a late time penalty for a pit lane infringement, such was his pace he was still ahead of Chaz Mostert by almost four seconds.
The dominant victory also saw Kelly Grove Racing secure its first race win under its new guise.
“When we had contact [with Jamie Whincup] I was like, oh geez that just made it a lot harder for myself and I knew I had to get five seconds," Heimgartner said.
"On the last lap it was four and half seconds so I just knew but they didn’t tell me.
"I’m just over the moon that I was able to get that five seconds and get the win.
“I’m just relieved. It’s been a long time, I was in and out of the category. Thankfully Todd [Kelly] gave me the chance to come back into the category and race for his team and it’s been really good so far."
Rounding out the podium in the event’s opening race behind Heimgartner and Mostert was Shell V-Power Racing Team’s Anton DePasquale, who picked up his first win of the year in Sunday’s first race.
Like Heimgartner, DePasquale started the race on pole and avoided the early chaos behind him to produce an impressive drive and a one-second victory over teammate Will Davison, while Shane van Gisbergen crossed the line in third.
It was De Pasquale’s first victory for his new team since making the switch over from Erebus Motorsport, while the result also saw Ford notch up its 400th race win in the Australian Touring Car Championship
“It’s cool,” De Pasquale said on the milestone win.
“We know how much that means to all the fans. We’ve got massive support behind me and Will (Davison).
“I’m loving that and loving racing for the Shell V-Power Racing guys. They’ve given me a good car. We’ve got a one-two. It’s pretty cool. It’s a cool day.”
In the final race of the weekend, Cameron Waters made it a clean sweep of victories for the blue oval as the Tickford Racing star also picked up his first race win of the year in the process.
Although he started from the second row, it only took Waters two laps to take the lead after De Pasquale was forced to retire when his engine misfired.
Having already passed Jamie Whincup on the first turn, Waters was then the effective leader for the next 17 laps, but faced plenty of pressure from Shane van Gisbergen, who came to within a car length of #6 Ford Mustang after his pit stop on the 15th lap.
With both drivers pitted from lap 15 and the outright championship leader on new tyres, it set up an enthralling final stint of the race and for the first time this year, however Waters managed to do what he hadn't done all year, beating van Gisbergen to take out the win.
“I’ve got no words," Waters said straight after the race.
"We had a fast car all weekend, we were quick in the wet, and you know what happened earlier.
"The car was nice in the race, it was a totally different car to what we have had the last two rounds.
"I knew Shane was quick I just pick my moments when to be quick and give him some dirty air like he did to me last year and let him blow his tyres off for a change.
"We have found a nice window in the car; we have been scratching our heads the last two events.
"It’s nice to get one up on him."
Van Gisbergen is still the championship leader, despite being unable to get a race win at an event for the first time this year.
Jamie Whincup remains in second place a further 190 points behind, while Chaz Mostert is third – just five points ahead of Will Davison who had a productive weekend in the points.
The Championship returns in three weeks for the Winton SuperSprint on 29–30 May.