Ant Pedersen has described Super Black Racing’s Bathurst wildcard appearance as bittersweet after falling agonisingly short of a top six finish.
Funded by New Zealand businessman Tony Lentino, the wildcard entry was run as a fifth car by eventual race winners Ford Performance Racing.
With two young Kiwi drivers, Pedersen and Andre Heimgartner, the team stressed pre-race that it simply hoped to finish.
A consistent run amid a chaotic race, however, ensured that the #111 Falcon was well placed in the closing stages.
Pedersen, the team’s lead driver over the weekend, ran sixth before being forced to pit for fuel on the penultimate lap.
The 26-year-old returned to the track to score 11th; one position lower than Triple Eight’s Xbox wildcard managed last year.
“We got the car home in one piece and we finished the race, which was the aim, so obviously big boxes ticked,” said Pedersen post-race.
“But when you’re sitting in a really strong position in the top five or six, to run shy with fuel is really, really frustrating.
“It’s a bit bittersweet. I’m pleased with getting home but frustrated as well.”
The Kiwi wildcard proved a legitimate entry from the outset of the weekend, with Pedersen qualifying just 2.8s from the ultimate pace in 22nd.
While Heimgartner endured a wild spin at McPhillamy on Thursday, neither driver damaged the car during the four day event, setting up the solid finish.
“The car was strong all weekend it was just a matter of Andre and myself just getting comfortable and pulling the most out of it,” said Pedersen.
“I’m really proud of the team. The boys have been incredible. We’ve worked together only once, but we’ve come together and dug deep.
“Andre drove really well. I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to achieve, but it’s frustrating, we could have done a little bit better.
“We were good for a top 10 easy, potentially a top five. We’ll take comfort from that but at the same time it’s still a bitter pill to swallow.”
While Pedersen had one previous Bathurst 1000 start in 2010, the race marked Heimgartner’s debut appearance.
“I think it’s not bad for a wildcard entry, it could have been a lot better but you’ve got to look at the positives,” reflected Heimgartner.
“We didn’t get much damage on the car, we didn’t hit any walls all week long so I think overall it’s a very positive debut for Super Black and myself.
“Basically just to keep it on the black stuff was my objective all week and I was pushing really hard at the end there and there’s nothing left on the table.
“I was waiting for it to bite me like it bit everyone else but fortunately enough it was all good.”
Super Black operations manager Greg Hahn says his squad will now ‘regroup’ before making decisions on its future.
The squad has stated intentions to enter the championship full-time in 2015, but has yet to secure an entry or external commercial backing to help it do so.
“This has been a steep learning curve for us, we weren’t the first Kiwis home but there’s next year,” he said, noting Fabian Coulthard’s ninth-place finish.
“I’ve had faith in these guys (drivers) right from the beginning, I knew that they’d grow through the week and they did and they kept level heads and we couldn’t be more proud of those two right now.
“They jumped in a Supercar for the first time and they just built and built and we’re really happy with that result.
“We’ve got to go away and do some regrouping and just reflect on everything and we’ll start planning into next year as soon as we get back.”