Rallying contact key to Heimgartner's TCR turnaround
One of Molly Taylor's rallying friends saved Kelly Racing from an overnight dash from Sydney to Melbourne and helped transform Andre Heimgartner's Subaru at the TCR Australia opener over the weekend.
A lack of familiarity with the Italian-built car meant the issue wasn't diagnosed until late on Saturday, and even then it was hardly a straightforward fix.
Having traced the problem to a solenoid on the gearbox, KR struggled to find a replacement part in the Sydney area.
The team's commercial boss Nick Ryan was poised to make an emergency dash back to Melbourne to source the part, travelling to Sydney Airport set to book a flight south should last-ditch efforts prove unsuccessful.
However, just when it seemed that the overnight trek to Melbourne was unavoidable, Subaru rallying ace Molly Taylor – making her circuit racing debut in the second KR WRX – tracked down the required part through a local contact in the rallying world.
"I changed out of one gear and then I'd have to wait a long time into the corner to change another one," explained Heimgartner. "In qualifying sometimes I'd be in the middle of the corner trying to get down to the gear I needed at the exit.
"The Subaru is not very well supported so we were really struggling to find out what the issue was, because we didn’t build the cars.
"We managed to go through everything and we ended up figuring out it was a solenoid on the top of the gearbox. Anyway, then we had to try and track one down. We thought we would have had to go to Melbourne but, luckily, one of Molly's contacts through rallying had one."
Taylor added: "I'm from Sydney, I have a lot of rally friends around here.
"The part we needed for the car, through two rally contacts we managed to track it down, and the guy that had the part lives 10 minutes down the road [from Sydney Motorsport Park].
"He taught me how to rally. I did my [high school] work experience in his shed, and helped him with his workshop. So yeah, very well-known, does track cars and rally cars, and yeah, a very old friend.
"It was nice to be able to feel a bit helpful."
Expanding on the problem, Heimgartner said replacing the solenoid did fix it to a large extent, but that a slightly lazy downshift also seems to be a characteristic of the car.
"It's a lot better now but we're still struggling a little bit," he said. "It's not quite as refined as some of the other gearboxes. We still have a little bit to go there."
Having the issue sorted did wonders for Heimgartner's pace, the Kiwi charging from 10th to fifth in the first of Sunday's two races. He then ran second in the early stages of Sunday's second race, and looked as if he might go on to win – only to be sidelined with a suspension failure.
"It's a bit disappointing because the car was actually pretty good," he said. "We're a lot stronger than [then-leader Dylan] O'Keeffe, so it's a bit disappointing to be so close to that, especially after the gearbox dramas all weekend.
"But, it's all a learning process, and especially with Subarus there's a lot of things that we need to work out how to fix and all sorts of stuff.
"We will be alright, we'll just go forward. I think the next track will suit the cars."
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