Richie Stanaway says his recent time on the sidelines has boosted his self-belief, amid a testing second full-time season on the grid.
The 27-year-old Boost Mobile Racing driver made his return to Supercars on day one of the OTR SuperSprint after missing the past three months due to neck pain.
Stanaway had been 21st in the championship before being forced to withdraw midway through the Truck Assist Winton SuperSprint, with Chris Pither and then Michael Caruso filling in at the wheel of the #33 ZB Commodore.
Seeing the experienced duo fare similarly in the interim provided some peace of mind, Stanaway said, after finishing 23rd of 26 in Practice 2 at The Bend.
While Caruso scored a top 10 finish in Townsville, the two-time race winner qualified 20th or worse for all four of his starts in the Boost Commodore.
“It’s been interesting for me to see things from the outside,” he said.
“I guess there was a bit of a question mark around myself with the results before I had to pull out (at) Winton.
“But seeing two guys (Pither and Caruso) in the car that I respect, seeing them struggle as well I guess validated and made me not question myself as much.
“We know what we need to work on now and we need to crack on with that and try to improve throughout the season.”
Stanaway conceded that trying to push through the pain barrier at Winton had backfired and turned a minor niggle into “a fairly major issue.”
“Ideally I probably shouldn’t have raced at Winton and then I probably would have lost out on less time,” he said.
“But I guess because I didn’t realise how serious it was and I just sort of pressed on and tried to ignore it, and then the Saturday at Winton made it into the issue that it was.
“Now that it’s fully healed, there are no precautions that I need to take… it’s good not to have to worry about any pain or anything like that, I can just get on with it.”
The Kiwi is eyeing the upcoming three-part endurance season – beginning with the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 on October 10-13 – as a prime opportunity to turn things around.
“It has obviously not been a great season but we will quickly forget that if we grab a decent result during one of the endurance races,” he said.
“We have got a lot of data to look at, we have just got to work really hard and try to turn the season around and I guess that all started today.”
Both Stanaway and team-mate James Golding, who was 18th in Practice 2, will be among 16 drivers trying to proceed to the second phase of qualifying tomorrow.