Nissan Motorsport’s upturn in fortunes at Queensland Raceway will serve as a much needed confidence boost for the team as they strive to become regular frontrunners, says James Moffat.
The Melbourne-based squad surprised the V8 Supercar paddock at the Coates Hire Ipswich 400 with an improved showing from its Jack Daniel’s and Norton backed outfits.
The Norton entries of Michael Caruso and Moffat grabbed the majority of headlines with the latter securing pole position for Race 25 before going on to finish fifth.
Caruso also starred during the weekend as he challenged for victory in Race 24 before tangling with race leader Scott McLaughlin towards the end of the 100km hit-out.
The 31-year-old Caruso continued his strong pace in the final race with a seventh place finish despite running out of fuel on the last lap of the 200km encounter.
Moffat had been just 22nd and 20th in Saturday’s two qualifying sessions before leaping to the front using Caruso’s set-up the following day.
While admitting the change in form came as a surprise to the team, Moffat believes the results will only motivate staff at Nissan’s Braeside base to find further solutions to help the team climb up the grid.
“I think the weekend has given the team a real lift with Michael putting it on the front row on Saturday and his speed in the race which was encouraging for everybody,” Moffat told Speedcafe.com.
“I think there is no doubt as a team that we are surprised at the performance of the cars at Queensland Raceway based on how we performed at the venue last year.
“If you can’t get motivated after the weekend we have had I don’t know how else you can get motivated.
“To be honest its a much needed confidence boost for the team.
“When we work hard enough and get it all right we can run at the front.
“Clearly we just have to do that more consistently and also keep pushing on our development path.
“We know the car is still weak in some areas and that does sound strange seeing as we got pole on Sunday.
“This is an ongoing development and we have just got to keep our heads down and work hard.
“Eastern Creek is a track that might suit us but we have got to go there and be on our A-game to keep this momentum going.”
Pulling away from pole, Moffat had looked a likely winner during the first stint of Sunday’s 200km race.
A decision to take on a large proportion of the 120 litre fuel drop in the first stint put the #360 Altima back in the pack, however, and Moffat found it difficult to recover.
“The car was excellent in the first stint of the race and I thought we were in for a pretty good day,” he recounted.
“In the middle stint we just came out in some traffic and I just battled a bit for overall car balance.”
Moffat missed out on a first podium of the season as a result of a mistake while trying pass Ford Performance Racing’s Chaz Mostert in the closing stages.
“It was a little bit disappointing to start from pole and finish fifth but its was a great day for us,” added Moffat.
“I was running fourth with a shot for a podium. I was happy I had a go trying for a podium and I wouldn’t have been happy with myself If I didn’t.
“We dropped one position which is disappointing but it could have been a whole lot worse.”