Cameron Waters’ maiden Supercars victory at Sandown “almost uncorked the genie” for the second-year driver, his Prodrive Racing Australia team principal Tim Edwards believes.
After winning the Dunlop Super2 Series with Prodrive in 2015, Waters stepped up to the main game in ’16, replacing David Reynolds who had just finished third in the championship.
Waters took a pole at Barbagallo Raceway in his rookie campaign and a best race result of fourth in Adelaide and at Bathurst on his way to 19th in the standings.
Even with improved form, a podium finished eluded Waters until he won the Wilson Security Sandown 500 from pole with Richie Stanaway, in a polished performance to hold off Scott McLaughlin.
He subsequently grabbed another podium on the Gold Coast with Stanaway, then a his first solo visit to the rostrum at Pukekohe on his way to eighth in the drivers’ championship.
“Cam did himself proud the way he handled the first year but then really he stepped up his game this year,” Edwards told Supercars.com.
“And getting that win at Sandown almost uncorked the genie a little bit, because he obviously followed that with a couple a couple of other podiums after that.
“Certainly a positive [from the year] for me was that Cam really start to find his form.
“To go from 19th in the championship to eighth, that was a good step up in year two and I expect more from him next year.”
Waters was one of three Prodrive representatives in the top eight, behind Chaz Mostert in fifth and Mark Winterbottom in sixth.
In a tight group behind the five drivers that headed to Newcastle in title contention, Waters wound up 35 points behind his team-mate and 2015 champion Winterbottom.
Edwards said that progression was “what we always hoped” would come from the 23-year-old in his second season.
“We were both realistic that his first year in the championship was going to be tough, but he made great improvements,” Edwards said.
“As a team we supported him better this year and he sort of found a lot in himself this year as well.
“It's always difficult coming into the championship, you've seen plenty of you global stars come in over previous years - you know, people like [Alex] Premat - that their first year is a baptism of fire.
“It's a very competitive championship, with some of the best drivers in the world, and when you go to a track you've never been to before or you've never been in one of these cars, it's a tall order.”
The Ford outfit becomes Tickford Racing in 2018, with Stanaway replacing Jason Bright in its full-time line-up.