Scott McLaughlin has ominously declared that there's “a lot more” speed to be found in Volvo Polestar Racing's S60 package ahead of the team's first in-season test at Winton on Monday.
The already rapid Volvo's performances have been the talking point of the V8 Supercars Championship during the first three months of the campaign, starting with a front-row slot and podium finish at its maiden event in Adelaide.
The 20-year-old McLaughlin has gone on to chalk up 11 top three starting positions from the first 17 races, helping him to the best qualifying average (3.9) of any driver in the 25-car field.
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Monday will see Volvo test at Winton alongside fellow Victorian teams Walkinshaw Racing, Ford Performance Racing, Brad Jones Racing and Nissan Motorsport.
While none of those teams have enjoyed a private test day during the year to date due to the tight nature of the early-season schedule, it is thought that Volvo will have the most to gain from the running.
The compulsory pre-season test at Sydney Motorsport Park on February 15 remains the only time that the S60 and its Volvo engine have run on a circuit outside a race meeting.
“We have been doing our testing on Fridays (at events), which is why sometimes we've been down the sheets in practice,” McLaughlin told Speedcafe.com.
“All our testing has been done at the race tracks so now we'll get a full day just to concentrate on what we want to do.
“Hopefully it doesn't rain and we're able to get some full on testing. That's what we need.
“Obviously with the aero package, it's a little bit different and we've had to change our set-ups from the Holden to the Volvo.
“We've got to learn more about what works best for us throughout the test day.
“I'm not thinking there'll be huge gains, there won't be half-second chunks or anything like that, but there'll be a tenth or a half-tenth here and there which is huge in this game.
“When six-tenths separates the whole field in qualifying every little bit helps and I think we've got a lot more in this thing yet.”
The test will also allow the team to further iron out gremlins that have contributed to McLaughlin's current position of seventh in the points standings.
Electrical problems (Adelaide, Race 3 and Winton, Race 8) and an engine failure (Winton, Race 7) saw McLaughlin lose significant ground to his rivals, while niggling steering problems at multiple events have also cost points.
Sitting 359 points behind title leader Mark Winterbottom heading to Hidden Valley next month, McLaughlin believes that winning the championship will be a tall order, despite his car's pace and potential.
“It's going to be really tough,” he said.
“The other guys are always finishing up the front and we've got to be more consistent.
“Realistically we're building for next year, to have a full tilt at the title in 2015.
“It's going to be tough (to win), but I can't see any reason why we can't be in the top five or the top three if everything goes right.
“There are a lot of points on offer at the enduros where we can really make some points up.
“As long as we get development underway for next year then that's when I think we'll have a really good shot.”
See below for the full list of average starting positions across the first 17 races
|Shane Van Gisbergen