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Oct 27, 2015

TOP 10 DRIVERS - No. 10 BRUCE HEINRICH

CELEBRATING it's 10th season, the Shannons Nationals has set out to rank the top ten drivers to have raced regularly at our rounds since 2006.

Selected by a panel of industry experts and assisted by more than 2500 votes from an online fan poll, our top-10 really is a who's who of Australia's racing elite from the last decade. We will be rolling out the full list in the next two weeks, with the Number One driver to be announced on the Friday morning of the 2015 Shannons Nationals finale' at Sydney Motorsport Park this November 13.

At number 10 it's multiple Saloon Car champion, Bruce Heinrich.

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IN THE BEGINNING, there was Bruce.

The undisputed king of HQ racing, Bruce Heinrich made the switch to Saloon Car racing in 1999 and was just as competitive in that category as in the one where he made his name.

The Adelaide-based performance car tuner was one of the most dominant drivers in the early years of the Shannons Nationals, sweeping to the fourth and fifth of his five national Saloon Car titles in the first two seasons of the Nationals – 2006 and 2007, respectively.

In 2006 he was especially dominant, winning nine of 21 races and finishing on the podium in 18 of them – ensuring his consistency was every bit as good as his speed.

But what was perhaps more impressive than the fact he’d just won his fourth national title, was the level of competitors he beat along the way.

Second, and more than 85 points behind, was Kris Walton. Third was Shawn Jaimeson and fourth the ever-speedy West Australian, Clint Harvey. The top-10 that year – arguably the strongest Saloon Car racing has ever seen – was completed by Paul Fiore, Matt Lovell, Peter Dane, Jake Camilleri and Scott Nicholas.

Not a bad group of drivers and yet there was Bruce: Out in front and dominant.

His third straight – and fifth overall – title came the following season in completely different circumstances.

This time, Heinrich had to out muscle Kris Walton in a year-long battle of the Blue Oval drivers and it produced some of the best racing the category has yet seen.

Both drivers won 10 times each, dominating 20 of the 24 races between the pair. Outside of their personal battle for the title only Clint Harvey (2 wins), John Goodacre (1) and Jake Camilleri (1) were able to trouble the scorers.

Consistency again helped Heinrich to the crown, though it ended in dramatic circumstances with a DNF in the final race. Walton won it, but the points margin was still too much for the fast Queenslander to overcome and as such he fell short by six points in a thriller.

2007 would mark the final of five Saloon Car championships for Heinrich, as his attention turned towards Fords with more power and two more cylinders in the Kumho V8 Series and then ultimately back to where it all started in the HQs.

Yet his time at the top of Saloon Car racing came during its absolute peak level of competition as a category. His final two titles also came in the only two years it held national championship status with CAMS – meaning it’s only his name that can be recognised as a true ‘championship’ winner in the class by the governing body.

All of that aside, there remains none that has demonstrated their ability to be a better exponent of six-cylinder touring car racing in Australia, be they HQs or the category designed to replace them.

He may only be an occasional competitor at a national level these days, but it’s good to know that people remember their history. The peak of Bruce Heinrich’s time at the Shannons Nationals may have come in years one and two, but it’s clear for all to see that the intervening eight seasons have done nothing to dull his accomplishments as Australia’s undisputed king of Saloon Car racing.

It will be a reign that lasts a very long time.

- By Richard Craill for thenationals.com.au