Chris Pither has identified Victorian-based Dunlop Series teams as the biggest challengers at this weekend’s Winton 400.
The series is headed for its second round after the season opening Clipsal 500, and with Winton Raceway the test track for more than half the Dunlop Series teams, the New Zealander says test experience will count for a lot.
“Everyone who tests at Winton will be out to make the most of their home event,” said Pither.
“To do well this weekend, you will need to have the car right and drive it well. Even the smallest of issues can affect your qualifying times or race positions.”
Since the Dunlop Series first visited Winton in 2001, every round winner and pole sitter has used the regional Victorian track for testing with the exception of Steve Owen setting the pace in 2008 and Grant Denyer claiming victory in 2009, becoming the last winning driver not to test at the circuit.
There was no Dunlop Series event at the circuit in 2005, 2006 or 2007.
The Ice Break Racing Commodore pilot believes the reason Winton is so competitive is because of the tight nature of the circuit.
“It’s not a very long lap and there are a number of tight radius corners as well as flat and off camber turns. Winton is quite a unique and challenging track so having miles under your belt is definitely in your favour,” he said.
“If you look at the last few years, there has only been about one second separating the whole field both in Dunlop Series and V8 Supercars, so it’s definitely crucial to have the car set up right.”
Brad Jones Racing conducted a test day with Pither’s car last Tuesday – at Winton – and aims to exploit the knowledge gained when the car hits the track this weekend.
“I’m really happy with the direction we’ve gone and I’m hoping for a strong showing this weekend. I think Clipsal showed we have the potential to go even better,” Pither added.
He heads to Winton on the back of two top 10 qualifying and race results at February’s season opener.
“I hadn’t done a lot of miles in the car leading up to the start of last year and it took me a few rounds to find my way but now I’m comfortable in the car and with the team,” he said.
“We really started to find consistency at the end of 2013 and in the off season we made some changes with the car and despite not having a test day prior to Adelaide we put in some really promising results.”
Pither sits fifith in the Championship standings; Eggleston Motorsport’s Paul Dumbrell leads. Click here for the points table.
Two 25-lap Dunlop Series races will unfold at Winton this weekend, with practice kicking off the action on Friday, the first session at 10.35am AEDT. Tickets are still available for the Winton 400.