Matt Stone Racing's Todd Hazelwood has vowed his crew would continue to push forward and challenge the bigger teams in the V8 Supercars Dunlop Series, despite a difficult start to his 2015 campaign.
Recognised as a future star when awarded the Mike Kable Young Gun award last year, 19-year old Hazelwood recorded two top 10 finishes at the season opening Clipsal 500 Adelaide.
However, the South Australian feels he and his privateer team should have performed better, having taken a wrong direction with setup at the Adelaide street circuit. He now looks to a test day tomorrow to find some clarity around setup for the upcoming second round of the Dunlop Series in Perth, which runs from May 1-3 at Barbagallo Raceway.
"We got a bit ambitious with setup in trying to close the gap to the Prodrive and Triple Eight cars," Hazelwood told v8supercars.com.au of the Clipsal 500.
"For us, that's pretty frustrating.The team at Matt Stone's does an absolutely fantastic job and in the past we've shown that we're more than capable of being competitive against those guys and beating them ... we're certainly up to the challenge to keep up with them, it's just a matter of trying to do it at a quick enough rate."
After the opening event, the teams Hazelwood identified as the biggest threats have their drivers tied at the top of the Championship, with last year's winner Paul Dumbrell equal with rising talent Cam Waters.
Both operations have involvement with main game V8 Supercars teams - Waters' entry is run by the 2013 and '14 Bathurst winning Ford Prodrive team, while Dumbrell's Eggleston Motorsport is a customer of powerhouse competitor Triple Eight Race Engineering.
Hazelwood expressed some frustration at what he perceived as an advantage for those bigger teams.
"Those guys have more data available to them so they can keep developing the car," he said.
"We're not on the back foot, but they've certainly got more to look at, which makes it a bit harder."
Despite being part of a bigger squad that runs alongside a main game team, Brad Jones Racing's Andrew Jones, a former Dunlop Series champion, mirrored that frustration and identified the Eggleston and Prodrive cars as the ones to beat this year.
For Hazelwood, the only way forward is to maximise a test day at Queensland Raceway tomorrow, when Matt Stone Racing will focus on improving tyre life and car balance - the two issues identified at the Clipsal 500.
"Overall, [tomorrow] will be about refining our setup and just trying to make sure we get everything right to go into Perth with a fine-tuned setup," Hazelwood explained.
"Last year, we had a pretty competitive package and our tyre life was actually really good, so it's a bit annoying that we've kind of gone away from that, but hopefully we can get that back again."
In 2014, Hazelwood qualified ninth and earned two fifth-place finishes at Barbagallo Raceway. He currently sits ninth in the 2015 title fight.
Hazelwood and Matt Stone Racing are still looking for a major sponsor for Perth, and have been working tirelessly over the break between rounds.
"It will be rewarding once we get to Perth and get back into the saddle again and put the helmet on and go from there. Keen is probably an understatement!" Hazelwood said.
The V8 Supercars Dunlop Series is just one of the great support categories at the May 1-3 Perth SuperSprint, with the V8 Utes, Improved Production cars, Formula Vee and Saloon Cars to hit Barbagallo Raceway. Tickets are available now.