Michael Caruso may be an unexpected championship leader coming out of the Clipsal 500 Adelaide, but the Nissan driver is prepared to “give it a crack” and sees himself as a realistic shot at the 2016 V8 Supercars title.
Leading Jamie Whincup by 15 points after a chaotic and unusual opening round, Caruso is determined to do what he can to stay in the top bunch, with events like Symmons Plains that have traditionally been strong for the Altimas coming up on the calendar.
It is the first time since 1992 – when Mark Skaife drove a Nissan – the manufacturer has led the championship. Caruso is hoping to hold on to that lead.
“That’s the challenge and there’s no doubt it’s going to be tough – but we’re going to give it a crack, that’s for sure,” Caruso told SEN’s On the Grid this morning.
Asked if he is a realistic chance at the title, he responded: “Yeah, I think I am, I do.
“We’ve definitely worked hard enough – and it’s not going to be easy. I’m not saying that we’re going to lead for the rest of the year and it’s all going to be just sit back and relax, it’s going to be tough.
“But like I said before, I really want to make sure while we’re in this position we can stay there and do everything within our power to do that.”
Caruso’s best championship finish was in 2014 when he ended the year 10th, though his single race win came back in 2009 at Hidden Valley in Darwin.
The next meeting at the Formula One Rolex Australian Grand Prix is not for points, but is also a place of good stead for Caruso, who earned ARMOR ALL Pole Position there in 2014 and finished the event third that year.
He described his crew as “hungry” and the group has already tasted success with a second place in Sunday's race at the Clipsal 500.
He entered that race seventh in the points – a long way from last year’s negative point-score, after being penalised for an incident and failing to earn points in the race.
“Particularly after last year’s championship start for myself, it shows if you have a tough first round it’s extremely difficult to come back from,” he said.
“This is clearly the best start I’ve had to my championship yet. It’s something we need to continue to build on. There’s going to be tough weekends and there’s going to be good weekends but that’s the excitement and challenge of the championship."
“I think there’s always pressure to be completely honest. Whether it’s contract time, the team’s signing up sponsors, there’s always things going on in the background.
“We’re all very competitive. There’s no right or wrong time to have a good or bad result, you’ve got to be doing your absolute best week in week out and I guess that’s why we have the best touring car championship in the world.”