Chris Pither is confident of a strong Dunlop Series season ahead after scoring a top three finish first time out in the Ice Break Racing Ford on the streets of Adelaide.
The Kiwi proved among the pace-setters at the popular Clipsal 500 event, qualifying on the front-row of the grid for the first of the weekend’s two races.
Pither converted his speed into a third place finish; a career best result for the driver at the parklands circuit, which hosted almost 300,000 spectators throughout the weekend.
The result came despite Pither having enjoyed just a single test day in the Prodrive-built MW Motorsport Falcon ahead of the event.
Starting from third on the grid for Race 2, Pither’s chances of a second strong finish were dashed when a momentarily stuck throttle resulted in an off at Turn 9 on the seventh of 18 laps.
Dealing with a heavily flat-spotted left-front tyre for the duration, the 28-year-old soldiered on to score valuable points in 12th place.
“I was pretty happy with the way we started the weekend,” reflected the Ice Break Racing driver.
“To qualify on the front-row and finish third in Race 1 at our first event as a team showed there’s a fair bit of potential there.
“It was obviously disappointing to have the issue in Race 2. We were a bit weak in the first few laps but then the car started to come on and I was coming at the guys in front of me quite quickly.
“It was only a momentary problem but it took a few laps to get some confidence back and meant we had to deal with a significant flat-spot as well.
“In the end we were pretty happy to make it home where we did.”
The promising start ensures Pither leaves Adelaide confident of challenging front-runners Paul Dumbrell and Cameron Waters, who split the first two race wins of the season.
“With what we achieved at our first race together, I definitely feel we’re going to be in contention and be able to race those guys at the front,” said Pither.
“The Ice Break Ford is a lot different to what I’ve had in the past and there are a couple of things I need to work on and get used to. There’s definitely more to be found.
“I really like the car, it feels quite forgiving to drive and you don’t have to force it to be quick. If you’re precise and do everything correctly the time will come.
“One of the great things about this team is there’s a lot of previous data to draw on. I learnt a lot over the course of the weekend and I think I’ve got a handle on what I’ve got to do.
“We’ll hopefully do a test day between now and the next round which will help us move forward.
“Barbagallo has been pretty friendly to me in the past and we’re obviously keen to claw some points back.”
Pither sits seventh in the standings ahead of the second round of the season at Perth’s Barbagallo Raceway on May 1-3.