Saloon Car: Harvey heads Heinrich at Season Opener
1/05/2007 at 12:08:05 PM:

With a first up third and then two victories, West Australia’s Clint Harvey won the opening round of the 2007 Supaloc Australian Saloon Car Championship at Oran Park on April 21-22. A win and two second place finishes over the three races saw defending champion Bruce Heinrich finish second overall while Kris Walton was third for the round.

Harvey had won the title in 2004 aboard a Holden Commodore VN then changed over to a Ford Falcon for the following seasons. This year he opted to buy a powerplant from a different engine builder and that proved to be the winner. But the weekend that saw a Ford whitewash almost didn’t happen for the winner. His Ford was on a transporter, along with fellow the West Aussie Falcons of Malcolm and Brett Niall, break down at Ceduna. “If it wasn’t for Hockos Mechanicals we simply would not have been here,” Harvey added.

The start of the first race was all important. Harvey was tradesman like; Walton who was on the outside of the front row was away untidily but Scott Nicolas who was seventh on the grid, shot through to second place in next to no time. The Queenslander Nicolas could sustain his great position because of a broken exhaust on his Falcon and was ultimately given a ‘meatball’ flag (for mechanical fault) and force to pit, subsequently out of the race.

Heinrich, who has four championships to his credit, led from pole position through to the finish while Walton, another Queensland in a Falcon, claimed second. Harvey moved to third on lap three before losing out to Shawn Jamieson’s South Australian Holden Commodore briefly. The latter was then challenged by Jake Camileri in another Commodore, losing out to the Queenslander on the final lap.

South Aussies Brad Fox (Falcon), John Goodacre (Commodore) and the Fords of Steve Kwiatkowski and Matt Lovell filled the next four places while the best of the local New South Wales drivers was Peter Dane (Falcon) in eleventh just ahead of Troy Hoey (Qld) in last year’s championship winning Ford. On the last lap Victorian Tim Rowse who had been in the top dozen, crashed between turns three and four on the final lap – his weekend was over.

The second race was under a safety car as they completed the first lap. Camileri had gone off at the turn one kink shortly after the start and needed to have his Holden hauled out. In the meantime there was another Holden on the sidelines with Goodacre suffering a gearbox failure.

With the resumption, Heinrich was under challenge from Harvey who took the lead with over two laps to go. Immediately behind the duo Jamieson held out Walton who again made a disastrous start. Kwiatkowski led the next group comprising Fox and Nicolas who had charged through from the rear of the grid. Lovell, Dane and Hoey followed, while just out of the top ten were Brett Niall, the Falcon of Shane Smollen (NSW), Victorians Paul Pennisi (Commodore), Geoff Brown (Ford) and the Falcon of David Mitchell.

In the final race it was Harvey all the way, but by no means easy as Heinrich tried several times to unseat him from the lead. Jamieson was third initially before Walton passed the Holden on the second lap and then looked to get past Heinrich – all four were line astern at the conclusion.

Nicolas had worked his way to fifth and was racing Fox and Kwiatkowski but slipped up on lap eight, dropping down the order. A brief shower on the final lap made the track slippery and caught out several at the old Suttons Corner, namely Fox, Dane, Camileri and Smollen. Kwiatkowski claimed fifth some ten seconds off the front four and clear of Lovell, Hoey, Nicolas, Brad Piggott (Falcon), Brett Niall, Brown, Goodacre and Malcolm Niall – both he and Piggott failed to finish the second race because of punctures.

Clint Harvey: “Well I still think we have a little way to go to match the front runners and this will really matter at the next round at Phillip Island – and the Commodores will be fast there as well.”

Bruce Heinrich: “The front tyres went away in the second race. I felt I was faster in the third but he (Harvey) was braking early and forcing me to wash off pace. I thought about a couple of moves but had to pull out.”

Kris Walton: “Yeah the starts were not good. I thought Bruce had the pace to get past Clint in the last, but I think my close presence made him defensive. I would have been happy to see him get past and I could have followed him through.”

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