South Australian Joel Heinrich, the 2018 Aussie Racing Car Series winner, will step up to the Dunlop Super2 Series this season in a Matt Stone Racing-run Ford.
MSR will field the 23-year-old in the ex-DJR Team Penske FG X Falcon that Todd Hazelwood raced in the opening half of the 2018 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.
The car, owned by SA businessman James Rosenberg, was subsequently parked for the remainder of the year, before reappearing for a post-season test.
While Brit Abbie Eaton headlined those to drive the Falcon at the Ipswich test, Heinrich also turned laps – his first in a Supercar – and has secured the deal to race it in 2019.
Heinrich is the son of five-time national Saloon Car Series winner Bruce, whose own driving exploits included appearances in the Kumho Super3 Series with his own ex-Steve Ellery AU.
Joel dabbled in HQ Holdens, Nissan Pulsars and Saloon Cars before moving to Aussie Racing Cars during 2017, winning the title at his first full attempt last year.
Heinrich and Hazelwood at the QR test
“Initially we were looking at doing something in the Kumho Series with a friend of ours, John Verdnik,” Joel Heinrich told Supercars.com of his 2019 plans.
“Then through James Rosenberg we were able to do the test with Matt Stone, and in the end it wasn’t a whole lot more to do Super2 than what Kumho would have been.”
Heinrich, who also races speedway, said he enjoyed the December test in the Falcon, which marked a big step up from the diminutive Aussie Racing Car.
“It wasn’t anything I was expecting at all, it was completely different. It was fast and moved around a lot but gave you a lot of feedback,” he said.
“I only did 25 or 30 laps. I felt that I picked it up relatively quickly, but I definitely want to log more laps before I jump in for Adelaide.
“I think there’s still potential in that car and with the right people working on it, if I can adapt to it fast enough I think it’ll be a good thing.”
Heinrich adapting to the power of the Supercar at QR
Heinrich is the second confirmed steerer for MSR’s 2019 Super2 campaign, with Aussie Driver Search winner, American Matt Powers, locked in to drive a VF Commodore.
South Aussie support 'surreal'
While John Verdnik, the father of former Super2 driver Jay, is effectively managing Heinrich’s campaign, Rosenberg has also been key in putting the deal together.
The now-retired businessman has a long history of giving young talent opportunities in Supercars, particularly South Australians.
He was the driving force behind Tim Slade’s ascension to the main game, gave Nick Percat his first full-time chance in 2014, and bought the FG X for Hazelwood’s graduation in '18.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Heinrich of having the support of Rosenberg.
“He’s the man in SA that can get you where you want to go. He’s got all the right contacts, has done it all before and knows how it needs to be done.
“It’s mind-blowing, it’s still surreal.”
Rosenberg with Slade in 2012
Rosenberg is looking forward to having the Falcon back on track and seeing how Heinrich progresses.
“I’ve watched Joel in Aussie Racing Cars and other categories previously and he’s won everything and done everything right in those categories,” said Rosenberg.
“He’s an up-and-comer from a good background, can obviously drive, and did very well in the test, so it’ll be good to see some new blood in the [Super2] Series.
“The car ran faultlessly at Queensland Raceway as well, and I can’t see any reason why it can’t be a competitive car in the Development Series.”
Heinrich’s backers in 2019 will include Osborn’s Transport, which was the major sponsor of his successful Aussie Racing Car campaign.
Two ex-DJRTP Falcons are set to be on the Super2 grid this year, with the other FG X campaigned by MSR in 2018 to be raced by Matt Chahda.
That car remains owned by the family of Bryce Fullwood, who drove it in the first half of the 2018 Super2 Series, before also being parked in favour of a Commodore.