Put your hand it up if you've labelled Mac Kwok the big improver among Hawke's Bay's super saloon racers this season ... you're not alone.
Expect the former drifter, superstock and motocross competitor to make more progress when the 26-car Onekawa Metal Recyclers New Zealand Grand Prix is staged at Meeanee tonight and the bulk of the field returns to Meeanee tomorrow night for the sixth of nine rounds in the Burger King Pro Dirt Series.
Should the series rookie who will be tackling his first national event in his seventh meeting in the class tonight show more improvement it will have little to do with his previous forms of motorsport.
"Nothing from drift cars and superstocks compares. The way they drive is totally different which is why it is such a challenge for me. But I'm enjoying the new game," Kwok said.
The 31-year-old father of two did two meetings in the non-contact super saloon class at the end of last season after deciding it would be easier on the body than superstocks.
In 2016 he was taken to Hawke's Bay Hospital with a back injury after hitting the concrete safety wall.
Eleven years ago he broke his back during a motocross accident.
While the injury risk has decreased with Kwok's class switch the amount of time he spends in the garage on preparation work hasn't.
Before spending yesterday afternoon on further adjustments on his Llama 410 Chev-powered HRC chassis car, Kwok had already clocked up 20 hours in the garage of his Hastings home.
"I could blow it out in 10 hours but I'm so fresh and I'm still working out stuff. At the same time I'm probably too thorough.
A refrigeration technician with Flemings Electrical and Refrigeration in Waipukurau, Kwok, admitted he wasn't ready, particularly mentally, at the start of the season when the first round of the series was staged at Mount Maunganui's Bay Park.
"I had never driven at Bay Park, I didn't know how the series worked and I struggled. Now it's a little bit more familiar. It's not as daunting and more enjoyable."
The top six drivers from each group after two 15-lap heats will qualify for the winner-takes-all 30-lap final. The top two finishers in the repechage will complete the 20-car field.
"I know I'm up against it but qualifying is the first goal. My group is stacked," Kwok said, pointing out New Zealand champion Steve Cowling, Nelson's 3NZ Ian Burson, former national champions Steve Flynn of Hawke's Bay and Rotorua's Mark Osborne and talented Mount Maunganui driver Scott Hayward are in his group.
"Hopefully we get a track with a couple of lines and there's a little bit of passing. I've struggled with single file racing. You have to be patient and wait for a mistake and because I'm so green it's usually me who makes a mistake," Kwok explained.
"I don't know if people will hold back for the Burger King round. But I will be pushing it."
Kwok is 22nd in the series but he knows if everything going to plan he could jump three or four places tomorrow night.
"Meeanee isn't the easiest track to pass on. But if they get two lanes going you will have a little bit more time to pass," Kwok said.
He believed at least 10 drivers were capable of winning the Grand Prix but labelled Cowling and his brother Chris Cowling, the 2NZ, as the favourites.
"Those boys are unreal. They are super quick and they don't make a mistake."
Although he is likely to be racing his super saloon for another two seasons at least, Kwok, hasn't ruled out a return to the drifting scene.
"I had five years as a professional racer and there is some unfinished business there ... yes the 1NZ title. I'm older and wiser now and that can be an old man's game," he added.
Kwok will be one of five Bay super saloon drivers in action both nights. Flynn's brother Grant, Chace Rodda and Darren Melling are the others.
Chris and Steve Cowling are placed first and second respectively in the series. Steve Flynn is the best placed of the Bay drivers in third place and his brother is fifth.
Tonight's support classes will be TQs, streetstocks and ministocks.
The Hawke's Bay streetstock and TQ championships will be staged tomorrow night when stockcars and sidecars will also be in action.