Motorsport: Emotional Pither glad Lentino saw best weekend

By Dale Budge

Chris Pither drives the #111 Super Black Racing Ford during a V8 Supercars test day. Photo / Getty Images
Chris Pither drives the #111 Super Black Racing Ford during a V8 Supercars test day. Photo / Getty Images

It was incredibly fitting that Kiwi V8 Supercars team Super Black Racing had their best ever round at Ipswich last weekend. While Chris Pither put the Ford on pole position for Saturday's race and banked a superb eighth on Sunday team founder and owner Tony Lentino was dying back in New Zealand.

The 42-year-old Lentino established the team in late 2014 and it contested a full debut season last year. After battling cancer for the past year Lentino succumbed to the disease on Monday morning - hours after watching his team achieve its highest honour so far.
"It was a pretty special moment but to look back on that and know that Tony was there to see that happen and to enjoy that himself made it all the more special," Pither tells "Hopefully it brought a big smile to his face and he felt as much happiness as I did.

"He has been fighting it for quite a while now and we were obviously aware of that.

It came as a bit of a shock though.

"He was amazing really. He was one of the most passionate in motorsport and it was his dream to be out there representing New Zealand."

Pither was emotional in his television interview straight after securing his and the team's first ever pole position. The young New Zealander admits he was struggling to hold it together as knowledge of Lentino's fading health and other factors boiled to the surface.

"It was a bit of everything to be honest," Pither says. "It was emotional. I have been trying for a long time now just to get into the main championship. I started racing karts when I was six years old and I moved to Australia in 2005 with the dream of racing the V8 Supercars Championship and it took a lot longer than I hoped. Obviously when that opportunity was presented by Tony and Super Black Racing it was a dream come true.

"It has taken a long time to get there and to repay the guys and thank everyone that has supported me and helped me to get to this stage is really rewarding."

Pither's stunning driver in Saturday qualifying won him the respect and admiration of the whole paddock - former driver now commentator Mark Skaife at pains to point out the enormity of the achievement as Pither put his Falcon in the top spot ahead of championship contenders Jamie Whincup, Shane Van Gisbergen and reigning series champ Mark Winterbottom.

Not only was Pither fast in qualifying but he did a stellar job all weekend.

"It was an awesome weekend really," he says. "When we rolled the car out of the truck on Friday it was good in both practice sessions. I was pretty excited by the runs on Friday and I knew we were in good shape but I wasn't expecting a pole.

"Our aim is to qualify in the top 10. We weren't anticipating putting it on pole. When my engineer Dylan told me that it was pretty exciting and I had to pinch myself there for a while.

"We were a little disappointed with where we ended up in the race on Saturday but to back it up on Sunday and qualify in the top 10 and then move forward in the race to get eighth in the race was really positive and a big step forward for the team."

Pither insists the team will be highly motivated to build on the success of Ipswich and continue to try and fulfill Lentino's dream of succeeding in the championship.

"Everyone within in Super Black Racing wants to press on and do what we can for Tony this year and make the most of the remainder of the season and try to get him lots more results."

With the longest break in the championship before the next round in Sydney, Super Black Racing will have a chance to deal with the emotion of the past week and be ready to go racing again in six weeks' time.

"I think it is probably a blessing to be honest. We can all reflect on the year to date and regroup. It will come around pretty quickly. We have a test day before Sydney and I have already spent some time in the workshop going over things from last weekend."

- NZ Herald

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