Prodrive's Cameron Waters says an intense off-season working on his fitness and undertaking a driver training stint in the UK is paying dividends at the Clipsal 500 Adelaide.
After a mixed debut season in 2016 where he finished 19th in points, the 22-year-old made a flying start to the new campaign on Saturday.
Waters emerged from the final stops of the 78-lap race in fourth place and held 2006 champion Rick Kelly behind him until the chequered flag.
While the Mildura-product stepped into the main game as the reigning Dunlop Super2 Series champion and with two Pirtek Enduro Cup campaigns under his belt, the visit to the UK to improve his racecraft has proved a worthwhile exploit for the Ford driver.
“It’s definitely impacted on today (Saturday),” he told Supercars.com.
“It’s got me thinking about my driving more and I knew where I could improve as a driver from last year.
“I went over there and it’s definitely been beneficial.
“I’ve also put a lot more emphasis on fitness as well.
“Not that I was unfit before, but I want to keep stepping it up.
“It’s been a good off-season and it’s early days so I want to keep this momentum going.”
The result came as a surprise to the car #6 driver who has a new engineer in Brad Wischusen working on the Monster Energy Falcon.
“It’s good because no one really got turfed off and there’s no ifs buts or should haves,” he continued of Saturday's result.
“I was on for fourth then and I was quick enough to be running second or third.
“I’m really wrapped to be on that pace and hopefully we can tune it up tomorrow and get it on the podium.
“It’s been awesome working with Brad," he added of his engineer who worked alongside Chaz Mostert last season.
"We’re getting on well, working to get the car better and I’m super happy with that.”
Waters added another positive was matching his more experienced team-mates Mostert and Mark Winterbottom.
“Being a rookie it is hard. It does take time to learn those little things and last year I could match them at certain parts,” he added.
“But this weekend has been good and I’ve matched them every session.”
Prodrive team principal Tim Edwards believes the way Waters drove on Saturday will help him earn increased respect among his fellow drivers.
“Cam drove an outstanding race,” Edwards told Supercars.com
“He had a lot of pressure there and I think he demonstrated that a lot of the hard work he’s put in over the last three months paid off.
“He’s not put a foot wrong all weekend. To put in a mature drive like that was what he needed.
“You need to earn a bit of respect in this category and if they feel you’re vulnerable the old guard will pick on you and take advantage.
“But if you’re tough enough to put your elbows out and have a good race with them you’ll earn their respect."