Canto reflects on early Dunlop Series days

  • Dunlop Super2 Series
  • |
  • 02/04/2015
  • By V8 Supercars

First ever V8 Supercars Dunlop Series round and title winner Dean Canto has reflected on the beginnings of the development category, as the 100th round approaches at the Perth SuperSprint, from May 1 to 3.

Last week marked 15 years since the first round - when it was known as the Konica V8 Lites Series - held at Eastern Creek on March 26, 2000, with a 21 car field.

While there were three race winners across the weekend's three races, Canto beat Wayne Wakefield (who won the first ever race) and Ryan McLeod on points to take out the first ever round victory in New South Wales.

Canto - who is a two-time Dunlop Series winner and former full-time V8 Supercars driver - described that first outing as "no frills racing". Back then, he was just a 19-year old with a 600-horsepower beast to tear around a racetrack in.

"It was pretty cool from my point of view," the 2012 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 runner-up told v8supercars.com.au.

"Back then we were all quite green and we literally turned up with our cars - we didn't really have any engineers or anything like that, we just did the grassroots races."

Canto said the field was competitive, with good cars that had previously run in the main series - his was Glenn Seton's old EL Ford Falcon.

"The cars were still quick and we didn't think too much about it when I was doing the racing, just having fun and the results came," the 34-year old said.

"That first round I won, kept my nose clean and it sort of snowballed from there, as far as my career, after that.

"But back then I don't know where my head was at thinking where we'd end up with all of this.

"It was definitely great for the series [V8 Supercars] - I guess for them, it was good because they could see potential for us to come up to the main series."

Even in its infancy, the development category produced close, tight racing with McLeod, Wakefield, Canto and Matt White within tenths of one another - though Canto says it wasn't overly serious.

Over the 15 years, it has grown into a major feeder category for the V8 Supercars, with the next generation of stars - such as Scott McLaughlin and Chaz Mostert - having cut their teeth in the series before stepping up and earning wins in their rookie season in the main game. Others who got their start in the Dunlop Series include Mark Winterbottom, Tony D'Alberto and Jonathon Webb.

"It's definitely a lot more professional now and serious - young guys are doing the series to try and show what they can do," Canto said.

"Even when we did the series, it's what sort of got me into the main series... It started off that year, we weren't sure how it would go, but it's lasted 15 years.

"It's stronger than ever to bring up young guys into the sport, whether it's a main series team backing a young guy and using one of their old cars, or whether it's guys that want to try and show what they can do.

"Champions from the development series - most have made their way to the main game."

Canto is now known as a Pirtek Enduro Cup specialist, having helped David Reynolds to his first V8 Supercars race win at the Gold Coast in 2013, and ending the 2012 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 as runners-up.

Last year the pair, in the Rod Nash Bottle-O Falcon, were a possibility for the win, but an alternator failure was a cruel end to what was an emotional day for Canto.

"It was my 15th Bathurst," he said when asked about the race.

"Even though we started second last, we were fighting for the lead. It was like, 'yes, this is my turn'. To have something like that [when] you don't put a foot wrong!

"Every year you get there and it's getting more and more competitive. Hopefully we can have another shot at it this year."

Canto will contest the enduros with Prodrive (formerly FPR), though the team has not yet confirmed which of the drivers he will pair with.

"It's something I'm still very passionate about," Canto said.

"The podium is always my aim and with a team I've been driving with, it's always a good possibility, so I'll keep coming back for as many years as they want me there."

Stay tune for the V8 Supercars Dunlop Series' return at the Perth SuperSprint from May 1 to 3.

Veteran Paul Dumbrell and young up-and-comer Cameron Waters are tied on points at the top of the table with 288 apiece.

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