New Zealand Supercars driver André Heimgartner has detailed his dramatic bid to get across the New South Wales border as he and his Kelly Racing team joined the exodus out of Victoria before strict restrictions came into place.
Victoria is in the grip of an escalating Covid-19 crisis, with the state sealed off from the rest of the country as of last night.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced the closure on Monday, and the Kelly Racing team needed to cross before midnight that day to avoid 14 days of self-isolation.
It made for a “pretty hectic” Monday, Heimgartner told 1 NEWS.
He says he had just been doing his normal work when he found out, and after a team meeting to determine who would be willing to make the sacrifice, they effectively had four hours to pack up, say goodbye to loved ones, and go.
"I think everyone’s still coming to their senses with what happened and what we’re actually doing, but I think we have definitely landed on our feet," the Kiwi said, adding that "everyone’s forgotten something".
Having hurriedly reconstructed the cars, the team made for the border town of Mildura, crossing, "with about 10 minutes to spare," Heimgartner said.
Team principal Todd Kelly has a farm station that straddles the border, and they will be staying on the New South Wales side.
“It’s a really strange feeling, it’s something we’ll be able to tell people a long time in the future - 'this crazy stuff happened'.
“It’s almost like you’ve been tipped off to go to war – you have to say goodbye to your loved ones, and you don’t know when you’ll be back.”
But while the 25-year-old said they are making sure to keep a focus on people’s mental health while everyone is away from their families, he is determined to make the most out of the experience.
“I’m trying to tell people we’re almost like a rock band; we’ve got a coach, we’re going to be going round Australia.
“I think it’ll be a tough experience, but for sure there’ll be positives to take out of it.”
He compared their current accommodation to “glamping”, saying they are occupying themselves with a campfire and clay shooting, and managing a few laughs.
“It’s not even the craziest thing to happen this year. Like all the stuff that’s gone on, it’s like ‘oh yeah this makes sense, it’s just another thing that happened in 2020'.”
Kelly Racing is one of five Supercars teams based in Victoria who have made the move into New South Wales, and other drivers and teams have widely acknowledged the sacrifice they are making.
The next Supercars race is in Sydney next weekend.