Aucklander Nick Cassidy has finished fifth fastest after breaking the lap record during two days of testing for Japan's premier single seater class, Super Formula, at the Suzuka track in Japan.
The former Toyota Racing Series champion and triple New Zealand Grand Prix winner was the leading rookie and only headed by vastly more experienced drivers.
Driving his Kondo Racing Toyota R1 4A, Cassidy recorded a time of 1 minute 36.071 seconds in the final session.
"It was a fantastic opening test for the team and me," said Cassidy. "We had ideal cool conditions. We didn't expect to be as strong as this, as the test was about getting to know the team and building working relationships."
The two fastest times were claimed by former Formula One drivers and current World Endurance sportscar championship regulars, Andre Lotterer and Kazuki Nakajima, while the current GP2 champion Pierre Gasly was third fastest, followed by Yuji Kunimoto.
"It's very promising but we need to keep working hard," said Cassidy.
Current GP3 champion Felix Rosenqvist and Toyota Racing Series graduate Jann Mardenborough were will down the list in the field of 20.
All the quickest times came in the final session as teams put new tyres on the cars to record a fast time.
Cassidy said he didn't make the best use of the fresh rubber for the few laps seeking the quickest time. Teams had employed the same tactic at the end of the first day, but Cassidy missed out as his car was having suspension adjustments.
All Super Formula teams use a common Dallara chassis and the same tyres. The turbocharged four cylinder Toyota motor which Cassidy uses has around 500 horsepower with a "push to pass" function, similar to that used in Indy Cars to provide more power for a limited period.
Cassidy said nobody knew which drivers were using push to pass and which were not. His assault on the seven round championship starts at Suzuka on April 22.