Matt Stone is hopeful an increased level of competition in the Dunlop Super2 Series this year will hold his team in good stead for its Virgin Australia Supercars Championship debut.
The Super2 outfit and points leader Todd Hazelwood will make a wildcard appearance at the Coates Hire Ipswich SuperSprint on July 28-30.
It marks a major milestone for the team which has run in the second tier since it was founded in 2011.
Hazelwood joined the outfit in 2014 and has progressed to become a regular race-winner, taking a maiden round victory last time out in Townsville.
Stone told Supercars.com the main series races are the ideal test for both Hazelwood and the team.
Hazelwood will be one of four wildcards at Ipswich with MW Motorsport fielding Jack Le Brocq and Shae Davies and Garry Rogers Motorsport running James Golding.
“The relationship between the team, Todd, the sponsors and engineers has all been building for the last several years,” said Stone.
“As far as Super2 is concerned, we’ve got a good package with the driver and engineer combination.
“Stepping up to the main game is a higher level of competition. But I feel we’re as best prepared as we could be.
Stone and Hazelwood
“The Dunlop Super2 Series is becoming more and more competitive. There’s just not the seats available in the main game.
“So the frontrunners in the series are, I think, are at the top level now.
“For him to get to that point where he’s a consistent frontrunner shows he’s progressed well and he’s ready for the next step.
“I think this wildcard option and the co-driver this year (at Brad Jones Racing) is a good extra bit of racing on his calendar to get in the feel for racing every second weekend and getting more preparation ready for trying to get a full-time gig next year.”
The Queensland-based MSR campaigns two Holden VF Commodores for Hazelwood and Adam Marjoram alongside a Ford FG Falcon for Brodie Kostecki in Super2 and has a history entering cars in Touring Car Masters, Australian GT and V8 Utes.
Stone works closely at MSR with father and Supercars Hall of Fame member Jim, while former Stone Brothers Racing engineer Wes McDougall is also part of the team.
“Personally, and most people in the team, have raced in the series before, but not under this exact avenue,” Stone explained.
“We’re trying to keep as much experience as we can on our team. People have done those roles in the main series before, so we’re as preprared as we can be.
“The majority of people who work for us in the Dunlop program are formerly out of the main game anyway.
Hazelwood with engineer McDougall
“Certainly, our feeling in the team is that for Dunlop Super2 Series standards we’re one of the larger teams there.
“We’re not that much smaller, and maybe equal in size to some of the smaller main game teams, so it’s good for us to step up to that level and show that we can.”
Stone believes that making a full-time plunge into the main series is a logical step for his business, but says it's too early to say whether next year will be the right time.
“We’ve got modest expectations but we’d like to have a good clean run and show what we’re capable of," he said of Ipswich
“We’ve always been based in Supercars’ pitlane. We’re involved in the majority of support categories, so it’s a logical progression (to run in the main series).
“It’s a case of taking our time and making sure when we do it, we do it right.
“It’s probably too early to say at this point of the year. We’re always looking at the future and what we can and can’t do.”
The team will undertake its SuperSprint wildcard test day at Queensland Raceway this Friday.