Ford driver Mark Winterbottom is relieved to be back towards the front of the Supercars field after an encouraging practice day at the ITM Auckland SuperSprint yesterday.
Winterbottom, the 2015 series champion, posted the third fastest time in Friday's final practice even beating the current series leader Shane van Gisbergen by a tiny margin.
"It was a good day," Winterbottom says. "We made gains and losses but we're really in a setup window which is really cool.
"I had a really fun day so hopefully we can take that speed into tomorrow and if we were racing today we would have had a chance of winning and that's a good feeling."
Winterbottom, who led the championship for a period in the first half of the year, has endured a disappointing endurance campaign that has seen him drop to sixth in the standings and out of the championship battle.
"I'm proud of the team really because the car at the last couple of rounds hasn't quite been there so I'm feeling comfortable again and actually feeling like I'm doing the number one proud so it's good to be back up there."
Winterbottom's Prodrive Racing teammate Chaz Mostert failed to make any impact on the timing sheet on Friday at Pukekohe Park Raceway but the 24-year-old Supercheap Ford driver isn't getting too concerned ahead of today's qualifying and races.
"[Friday] wasn't quite as bad as it looked on the time sheets, I just didn't quite get a proper lap together after sliding in that last session but I think we have a good car," he explains.
"It was strong early in the day and I don't think we're too far off. There are a few little things that we can look at but I'm just really looking forward to giving it a good go in qualifying."