Anton De Pasquale was relieved to clinch his first Shell V-Power Racing Team podium at Symmons Plains, but admitted much is left to do to catch Shane van Gisbergen.
De Pasquale impressed to finish third in Race 6 at the Beaurepaires Tasmania SuperSprint, holding off Chaz Mostert by half a second.
The result was welcome relief for De Pasquale, who finished no better than fourth across the opening two rounds in 2021.
The 25-year-old’s first race in Shell colours, at the Repco Mt Panorama 500, ended in the wall at The Cutting.
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He bounced back to finish fourth on the Sunday, before falling short in the three Sandown sprints.
While happy to finally take home a trophy, De Pasquale admitted it should have come sooner.
"I wouldn’t say it’s like getting the monkey off my back,” said De Pasquale, whose last podium came in Erebus colours at The Bend last year.
“We probably should have got a podium the first race of the year, but I threw that away.
De Pasquale enjoys his first podium in Shell colours
"Podiums have been realistic for us every race we have been there or thereabouts.”
De Pasquale ran fifth until he stopped on lap 14. and benefited from a slow stop for teammate Will Davison.
It nearly ended in tears, though, with the two Mustangs tight on re-entry for De Pasquale.
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He emerged ahead of Cameron Waters, having successfully undercut the Monster Mustang and Mostert’s Walkinshaw Andretti United entry.
He crossed the line five seconds behind Jamie Whincup, with van Gisbergen clinching a record-equalling sixth win to start the year.
Having followed the Red Bull Ampol duo, De Pasquale admitted his team has more work to do should it close the gap to the runaway championship leaders.
“It’s very good to get the first one but we’ve got to back it up tomorrow and the next rounds,” he said.
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“It’s all good, but there’s a long way to go."
Van Gisbergen will take a 153-point lead over Whincup into Sunday, which will feature two 44-lap sprints.
De Pasquale is 13th in the standings, albeit 379 points adrift of van Gisbergen.
Cars will return on Sunday for Race 7 qualifying at 10:45am AEST.
The event will be broadcast live on Foxtel and will be streamed on Kayo with highlights on 7 and 7 Plus.