At the last round of the V8 Supercars, New Zealander Chris Pither proved he has the pace and skill to mix at the front of the pack.
The series rookie has had a bit of a battering in his first season with Super Black Racing in what many regard as the hardest saloon car racing series outside Nascar.
Pither is a former Australian V8 Ute champion, but found making it into the main game a hard and fast learning curve. His early season form really didn't show what he was capable of and he experienced some pretty heavy shunts.
"The start of the year didn't go to plan having had a couple of incidents early on," said Pither. "Looking back on them it was hard but we managed to push on and use the experience for something good.
"We're at the point now where we've had some top 10 results and it's a credit to the team for what they've done giving me an awesome car."
Things took a big leap forward at the last round of the series at Queensland Raceway where the Kiwi snatched his first pole in the series from his teammate Chaz Mostert. After the first few hiccups, Pither has rapidly got to grips with the car and is gaining a better understanding of what is required to get the best out of the Prodrive Racing Australia built car. Along with getting to grips with the car, Pither is developing a closer relationship with his engineer Dilan Talabani which will only bode well for the future.
In recent rounds he's also been either inside the top 10, or just outside, in both qualifying and the race itself. If he can build momentum from his pole position and continue to be consistent in race mode, look to Pither to steadily improve on his 20th position in the championship.
"Getting pole is definitely the highlight of my career so far and an amazing feeling. It was exciting and a bit of a turning point for us and I hope we can keep pushing on and moving forward.
"Sitting on the front row and seeing nothing between me and the first corner was absolutely unreal. It proved to myself and the other guys that when we get our ducks in a row it's possible to be at the front, and is a big boost to mine and the team's confidence. Now we know we can be at the front of the field.
"When the race started I fell back a bit as I didn't want to get tangled up with the guys vying for a championship. I could have been a bit tougher and more aggressive off the starting line, but I learned so much having the opportunity of running with the guys at the front of the field.
"I now know how it rolls up the front and hopefully we can get back up there again soon," he said.
With just one more round (Sydney August 26-28) before the Pirtek Enduro Cup three round series within a series, the news that Pither will be joined by fellow Kiwi Richie Stanaway came as a pleasant surprise. Stanaway has been one of the shining lights of New Zealand motorsport and is now a works driver for the Aston Martin Racing World Endurance Championship GT team.
He's a bit of a neophyte when it comes to V8 racing, but his pedigree in endurance racing is pretty impressive. At least he'll be used to the cut and thrust of high performance racing among some of the best international sportscar driver in the world.
"Richie's done well in anything he's driven and it's exciting having him for the enduro rounds. Obviously he's had a lot of endurance racing experience, but he is a little light on V8 experience," Pither said.
"We're hoping to get him in the car and get him up to speed before the first race at Sandown."
V8 Supercars points
1. Jamie Whincup 1821
2. Shane van Gisbergen 1711
3. Mark Winterbottom 1701
4. Craig Lowndes 1671
5. Scott McLaughlin 1536
6. Will Davidson 1485
7. Michael Caruso 1368
20. Chris Pither 796