Pither relieved after breakthrough performance
Chris Pither says that strong speed at Barbagallo has proven a major confidence boost after a nightmare start to his rookie V8 Supercars season.
Moving to Australia in 2005 to pursue his dream of becoming a full-time V8 Supercars driver, Pither finally found his chance with the Prodrive-run Super Black Racing squad this season.
The start of the year proved a nightmare however with big crashes at Adelaide and Symmons Plains amid a struggle to get up to speed in the highly competitive field.
By contrast, Barbagallo saw the 29-year-old qualify in the top 10 for both races, including a shock fourth place grid slot for Race 9.
The Super Black entry came home as the first of the Prodrive Fords with eighth in Race 8 before falling to 14th late in Sunday’s mini-enduro after another largely competitive showing.
“For me I knew we could do it as a team but I needed to prove it as well,” Pither told Speedcafe.com.
“It was a bit of a relief to get a reasonable weekend under the belt. It’s a big confidence booster.
“When you have a couple of accidents like we did it’s a big knock to the confidence.
“It does get you down at this level. It’s so competitive and confidence is a really big thing.
“Thankfully I’ve been able to do it and I think prove that we deserve to be there.
“Now that we’ve been able to do that, the bar raises I guess and the targets change.
“We’ll keep pressing on from here and see if we can have some more top 10s and maybe top fives.”
Although unable to pinpoint specific reasons for the sudden upturn in speed at Barbagallo, Pither says that he’s had to work hard to find set-ups that suit his particular driving style.
“You’re only looking for hundredths of a second on a corner and everyone achieves it in a slightly different way,” said Pither, who is the only left-foot braker in the Prodrive team.
“I’m definitely different to the other drivers and Dilan (Talabani) my engineer have gone down our own path a little bit.
“We’re not far away, but just trying to adapt it to the way that I drive the car. I think we’re starting to get a handle on that now.”
In a category where deals for the following season appear to be done earlier each year, Pither admits he felt pressure to put a result on the board.
Pither joined Super Black with major funding from his long-time sponsor Ice Break, but the entry remains majority funded by owner Tony Lentino.
Kiwi businessman Lentino entered the category at the end of 2014 but has made no guarantees of Super Black’s future beyond the end of the current season.
“At the end of the day it’s a pretty cut throat sport and there’s a lot of people out there hunting for a seat,” said Pither of proving himself.
“It basically took 10 years to get in there full-time and now I’m here I want to cement the position and be here for a long time.
“Tony has high expectations and going forward I want to make sure I retain the seat.
“This is obviously a step in the right direction but we’ve got to keep backing it up.”