The confirmation Kiwi Chris Pither will not only drive the Super Black Racing Ford Falcon FG X again in Sydney next weekend but also for the entire 2016 season comes on the back of the Kiwi’s confidence-boosting debut for the team at the WD-40 Phillip Island SuperSprint.
Pither qualified 22-23-21 and went 24-24-19 in the races in the Prodrive-fettled Ford, but felt he made more progress than what the results actually showed, especially in Sunday’s longer 200km mini-marathon.
“I was pretty happy with that, just looking at the lap times and we definitely closed the gap up to the other team cars,” the 28-year old told v8supercars.com.au. “Everyone I was watching, I think our pace was much more comparable to them and I was pretty happy with that.”
“You have to be 100 per cent on your game the entire time and 99, 98 per cent is not good enough”- Chris Pither
Pither said he was reminded of just how competitive V8 Supercars is when he made a small mistake in Sunday qualifying that cost him a couple of tenths.
“Everyone knows how small the margins are in this category covering all the drivers and you just blink and you have made a slight mistake in the wrong place and it has cost you in qualifying. And your whole weekend can stem from that one mistake.
“And that’s what stood out to me. You have to be 100 per cent on your game the entire time and 99, 98 per cent is not good enough.
“It was a little bit challenging getting used to a different car and things like that but I think in the Sunday 200km race it was lot tidier. If we keep improving in those areas and keep executing in qualifying, then I am sure we can go forward.
Pither said the rain in Friday practice at Phillip Island hadn’t helped him acclimatise to the FG X, which is built to a different set of technical regulations compared to the MW Motorsport Ford Falcon FG he has been campaigning this year in the Dunlop development series.
“It obviously limited the chance to come to grips with the car on the Friday,” Pither said. “So come Saturday it was sort of start from scratch again and try and learn throughout the qualifying and shorter heat races.
“But overall I was relatively happy with the performance and with regards to the improvements we made in each session. It is bloody competitive out there and I couldn’t expect to be up the front to start with.
“But so long as I can see we are consistently making steps in the right direction I think it’s good.”
Pither, who turns 29 next Thursday on the eve of the Coates Hire Sydney 500, has elected not to do double duty and also drive his MW Motorsport Ice Break Falcon at the Sydney Olympic Park development series decider so he can concentrate on the Tony Lentino-owned FG X.
It’s been a long road back for Pither, who made his V8 Supercars debut in a limited campaign for Team Kiwi Racing in 2008. It was a difficult experience marred by a heavy collision with Paul Weel during practice for the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
As well as contesting the development series, he returned as a Brad Jones racing endurance co-driver for David Wall in 2012, a role he fulfilled again in 2013. In 2014 he stayed with BJR but drove with Dale Wood.
He shifted with Wall to Wilson Security GRM for the 2015 Pirtek Enduro Cup and also drove the #34 Volvo S60 at the Australian Grand Prix when the regular driver was out injured.