Ex-Formula 1 star Nick Heidfeld has emerged as one of the favorites to lift the Dan Wheldon Trophy as the best performed international driver at the Armor All Gold Coast 600 this weekend.
Team boss Tim Edwards, who worked with Heidfeld during his days as team manager at the Jordan F1 team in the early 2000's, rates the German better than the two guest drivers who won a race each at Surfers last year.
“Nick is absolutely up with those guys (Sebastien Bourdais and Richard Lyons),” Edwards told Speedcafe.com
“Even compared to those two he is far better than both of them because of what he has achieved in F1 over the last decade. Those two drivers have got a lot more experience in these cars.”
Heidfeld completed a heavy schedule in the morning before the afternoon practice start proceedures, making a smooth transition in the Bottle-O Falcon.
“You have to drive first to start to understand,” Heidfeld explained to Speedcafe.com.
“There is no point going out the first lap and trying to do something. So I've tried to take it easy and build it up. Everybody is different but that works the best for me.
“Everybody has said they will be so much slower than anything you've driven before and blah, blah, blah – all these negative things. I expected a lot worse that it was. I'm really enjoying it.”
Edwards was impressed with Heidfeld's methodical process of getting up to speed in the Ford.
“He went out for three runs initially and just said leave me out there I'll come in when I'm right kind of attitude. He did a slow lap then a fast lap and kept repeating that,” Edwards said.
“He obviously used the slow lap to try and think about what he wanted to do in the next one. If you look at every lap he's done. It's like three seconds difference alternating laps. It's obviously the way he is learning the car.
“In reality for these guys it's like slow motion for them compared to what they are used to.
“His times are now comparable to some of the guys who were here last year. He probably wouldn't have even done 10 timed laps and he's already doing similar times to the guys who have driven these guys before. That shows the caliber of the guy.
Heidfeld's first impressions of the V8 Supercar is flattering given that he expected less in light of some of the negative comments he received from people leading up to this weekend.
“Everybody has said they will be so much slower than anything you've driven before, and blah, blah, blah all these negative things. I expected a lot worse that it was. But I'm really enjoying it and they are seriously good fun.”
See below for Speedcafe.com's Armor All Gold Coast 600 Race Guide