Super Black Racing went into last weekend’s Bathurst with little expected of them, but they emerged having earned the respect of the entire pitlane.
The New Zealand team did what so many others failed to do and made it to the end of the 161-lap race.
Andre Heimgartner and Ant Pedersen finished 11th, but could have been as high as fifth but for the need to pit to take on more fuel for the final lap.
The team won’t race again until next season, if they get a racing entitlement contract, but they can spend the next few months planning ahead, safe in the knowledge that they did everything asked of them in their first event.
Tim Edwards, team principle for Ford Performance Racing who provide Super Black Racing with their car, said he was delighted with what the new Kiwi team were able to achieve.
“These guys at Super Black Racing certainly put themselves on the map because they did a fantastic job,” Edwards told Sunday News.
“You look at their lap times in the race and they were having a real run with some of the guys who race in these cars at every race of the year and have been doing so for years.
“They did an outstanding job and I can’t compliment them enough about not being involved in a shunt or not being slow, they ticked every single box and to be quicker than the regulars was fantastic.”
No decision has been made as to whether it will be Heimgartner or Pedersen driving the car on their own during the sprint rounds next season, but both demonstrated that they’re good enough to get a full-time drive in V8 Supercars and could have other teams looking at them.
“Those discussions will start now and I hope that there are opportunities there in the future,” Pedersen said.
“But this is a fickle game and I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.”
Like Edwards, Pedersen said he was delighted with how last weekend went for the team. The car was consistently the slowest in every practice session and in qualifying, but from the first lap of the race they were as quick as everyone else.
“The reality is that with all of our cars we focus mainly on race set up and we weren’t bothered with where we qualified,” Edwards said.
“It was nice to qualify car five (Mark Winterbottom) on the front row, but really even if you’re on pole at Bathurst if you haven’t got a great race set up, you’re going nowhere.”
“I was really proud of what we were able to achieve,” added Pedersen.
“It was the first time our team had worked together at a race meeting and I thought we punched well above our weight.
“It was frustrasting at the same time, though, because it would have been a remarkable result for us to have finished fifth of sixth, but the fuel strategy didn’t quite play into our hands.
“But it was still a huge effort and I’m so proud of what everyone has achieved.”
A new chapter in Kiwi motorsport will be written at 1.05pm (NZ time) when Super Black Racing’s Ford will take to the track at Bathurst for the first practice session.
Not since the demise of Team Kiwi in 2009 has there been a New Zealand owned and driven car in the V8 Supercars series.
They are the only wildcard entry for this year’s great race and they hope to pick up a licence to race in all of next year’s calendar.
There are still a few hurdles to overcome to achieve that, but a good result in Sunday’s 1000km race will go some way towards helping make that happen.
At the public signing session in the centre of Bathurst yesterday the two drivers, Ant Pedersen and Andre Heimgartner happily signed autographs, sitting alongside the category’s biggest names, Jamie Whincup and Mark Winterbottom.
Pedersen says he’s had a good response from the Australian motor racing fans he’s spoken to and while he’s optimistic about how the weekend will go, he’s not setting the bar too high.
”People understand what Super Black is all about, who we are and our goal is to get to the end of the race and for it to be a successful debut for the team,” Petersen, 26, told Fairfax Media.
”It’s such a tough category, we can’t walk in here and say we’re going to win the thing, just finishing is an achievement in itself.
”The focus is getting to the end of the race on Sunday afternoon and we’ll be where we’ll be at the end of the day.
”I’m really excited for Super Black and with what their vision is, they want to have Kiwi representation in V8 Supercars and for Andre and I it’s a pleasure and a privilege to represent them in their first venture.”
The car they’ll be driving was provided by Ford Performance Racing, so it’s won’t be a dog, although the manufacturer has been lagging behind their arch rivals, Holden, recently.
Pedersen and Heimgartner got the chance to take the car for a spin at the Winton, Victoria last month.
”It’s a pretty good car,” Heimgartner said. ”We have a good team and had a good setup, so we’re obviously not starting from scratch.
“The car is going to be set up this weekend to go well and hopefully we’ll hop into it and be fast, but we won’t find that out until Sunday comes.”
Before the signing session yesterday Heimgartner and Pedersen were locked in conversation with fellow driver Kiwi Shane Van Gisbergen and Heimgartner says they’ve received plenty of advice from other V8 Supercars drivers.
”Everyone has got their little piece to say, but at the end of the day we’re all running against each other, so they keep their really good secrets close to their chests,” he said.
”But everyone’s pounded into our heads that we need to get to the end of the race.
”There is no point in us being fast on the second lap and smashing into the wall on the third.”
Pedersen is listed as the main driver for Super Black Racing with Heimgartner the co-driver, but that’s only because Pedersen won a coin toss.
Heimgartner says decisions about who drives when in qualifying and the race won’t be made until after the practice sessions.
”I could qualify the car on Saturday or Ant could and I could start the car on Sunday or Ant could,” he said.
”So it’s still an open book and we’ll have to wait until we get the practice sessions out of the way first. We’ll decide after that and will work out what’s best for the team.”
Practice sessions today are at 1.05pm, 3.15pm and 5.10pm.
New Zealanders have a history of conquering Bathurst and have a bunch of strong contenders for Sunday’s Great Race, which also marks the arrival of the new Super Black Racing
The Bathurst 1000 is not only Australia’s Great Race, but New Zealand’s too.
New Zealanders have had enormous success in the October classic.
In particular, Jim Richards won seven times at Mt Panorama and Greg Murphy is chasing a fifth victory this Sunday – with James Courtney in a Holden Racing Team Commodore that is among the favourites for Sunday.
Murphy only drives in the V8 Supercar endurance races these days, although he still races full-time – and is the reigning champion – in NZ’s V8 SuperTourer series in which the cars are similar other than for a generic 7-litre engine.
Shane Van Gisbergen, Fabian Coulthard and Scott McLaughlin are the younger generation of Kiwis racing this side of the Tasman. They are fourth, sixth and eighth respectively in this year’s V8 Supercar Championship.
Driving for Tekno Autosports, Brad Jones Racing and Volvo Polestar Racing, they are serious contenders for glory on Sunday behind the favoured Holden and Ford-backed teams.
There are other prominent Kiwis too – like Steven Richards, who has lived almost his entire life in Australia but remains proud of his origins. He’s a multiple winner at Mt Panorama, including in Ford Performance Racing’s breakthrough victory with Mark Winterbottom last October, although this week he’s in a Holden with Craig Lowndes.
And there’s the veteran and versatile Craig Baird who is sharing, with Lee Holdsworth, the Mercedes rebuilt after its massive crash in last month’s Sandown 500.
Kiwi fans have a devotion to the Bathurst 1000 as a TV event in a similar way to Australians.
There is added interest for those Kiwis over the next four days because of the debut of a new NZ team, Super Black Racing.
The “baby” of new-media tycoon Tony Lentino and Andrew Hiskins, and with Paul Radisich – NZ’s former world touring car champion and V8 Supercar racer – instrumental in its formation, Super Black has the sole wildcard entry in this year’s Great Race.
It will be the team’s debut, with 26-year-old Ant Pedersen and 19-year-old Andre Heimgartner its drivers of a Ford Falcon prepared, and largely crewed, by FPR.
Pedersen is an accountant from Hamilton, one-time home to NZ’s round of the V8 Supercar Championship, while Heimgartner became the world’s youngest Formula Ford champion when he won the NZ title at 15. They finished fourth and fifth in the NZ SuperTourers last season and are third and fourth after the first round of the new season, with Van Gisbergen the leader.
Pedersen and Heimgartner have had a little Bathurst experience in the past couple of years, but only Pedersen has had a taste of it in the “the main game” before.
Two other wildcards for the Great Race granted to Melbourne-based development series team Dragon Motor Racing, which had intended to run two of Garry Rogers Motorsport’s Holden Commodores from last year, did not proceed.
NZ has been represented in Australian touring car ownership previously, most prominently and successfully by the Stone Brothers Racing of Ross and Jim Stone which has transitioned into Betty Klimenko’s Erebus Motorsport squad fielding the AMG Mercedes E63s.
There also was the inglorious Team Kiwi, which dropped out of the V8 Supercar “main game” in 2009 but still runs in lesser categories on both sides of the Tasman.
Super Black has designs on competing full-time in the V8 Supercar Championship beyond this year but those plans have been muddied by the uncertainty over Racing Entitlement Contracts, with the series organising body and Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport engaged in a legal battle over one (which LDM “parked” last year but wants to reactivate next season).
The Falcon that Super Black is campaigning at The Mountain this week is being engineered by Paul Ceprnich, whose Gold Coast-based Pace Innovations company was central to the creation of the new-generation touring cars in Australia and NZ in the past couple of years.
Owner Lentino is generally media-shy, but has told the NZ Herald newspaper: “Bathurst is the greatest motor race in our region and is as iconic in NZ as it is in Australia.
“It is the best place for us to make our debut and will be a great sounding board to a potential full-time entry in the series.
“We are a bit of the underdog, but the Kiwis need a motorsport team to follow internationally. I was surprised we didn’t have one, especially with all the Kiwis driving in the V8 Supercar series.”
Young driver Heimgartner admitted “there will be a fair bit of weight on our shoulders” at Mt Panorama from today.
“Knowing we’re racing for NZ has made it a whole new experience,” he said. “Ant and I are looking forward to doing well. We’ll try to qualify well and stay out of trouble.
“It’s a long race at 161 laps. Hopefully we can be on the lead lap at the end and fight for a good finish.”
The official theme song for Super Black Racing 2014 has been released.
The song, entitled “Super Black” is sung by local New Zealand artist Emme Lentino and was produced by double APRA Silver Scroll and ISC finalist Bryan Bell.
SUPER BLACK LYRICS
Chant: Super Black, Back in BlackConquer mountainsConquer fearsKing of SpeedCrowd gives a cheerCome on, people stand togetherKeep the faith foreverIt’s what we believeIt’s what we can beStay the courseWith the dark horseAll aboardRumble and roarCome on, kiwis stand togetherKeep the faith foreverIt’s what we believeIt’s what we can beChant: Super Black, Back in Black
Ant Petersen will be listed as the lead driver for next weekend’s Bathurst for Super Black Racing and Andre Heimgartner as his co-driver, but only because he got lucky.
All 26 cars in the 1000km race must stipulate who their No 1 driver is and for 25 cars it’s a straightforward process to name the fulltime driver from the V8 Supercars series.
But as Super Black Racing is a wildcard entry a decision had to be made, so team principal Greg Hahn said the best way to sort it out was to flick a coin.
“Between the two boys, I conference called them in on a call on Thursday and tossed a coin as to who would go down as driver and co-driver and Ant got the toss,” Hahn told Sunday News.
“It was literally decided by that – they are very close and they’ll go out there and drive as one man.
“Although we’ve named Ant as our driver and Andre as our co-driver, it won’t really mean anything until we do our five practice sessions, then we’ll sit down and sort out our strategy with the boys and work out who will drive first and who will do the shootout.
“Neither of them is a better driver than the other and we’ll see who is the best by Friday and we’ll be ready to go by Saturday.”
The team will arrive at Bathurst on Tuesday and the car will hit the track for the first time two days later.
The team have appointed Paul Ceprnich as their head engineer. Ceprnich was involved in designing the Car of the Future. He and other key people in the team garage are Australians, rather than New Zealanders, but needs must for this one-off race.
There should be a stronger Kiwi presence in the team next year.
Hahn says there has been an upsurge in interest in Super Black Racing as Bathurst approaches and more companies are looking to team up with them.
“We had about five companies come to us last week and are now on the car, so we’re really starting to feel the support of New Zealand and New Zealand companies that are getting behind what we’re doing.
“Even international companies are getting in touch with us about sponsorship and that gives us a lot of confidence going into next year.”