Super Black Racing's maiden Supercars pole position stands as a fitting tribute to the competitive nature of its late owner Tony Lentino, says driver Chris Pither.
The team's milestone moment from Saturday at Queensland Raceway took on another level of poignancy yesterday when Lentino lost his 15 month battle with cancer.
Pither and his Super Black crew remained at the Ipswich circuit on Monday undertaking a ride day when news came through of Lentino's passing.
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The 42-year-old had been absent from the Supercars paddock since March as he fought the disease and dedicated time to his family.
“To have gained pole position on Saturday was an amazing achievement for the team,” Pither told Speedcafe.com.
“Knowing now that Tony was here to enjoy that moment of our team's first pole as well as the top 10 finish makes it extremely special.
“I'm so happy that we could achieve that for him.”
Only knowing Lentino during the self-made millionaire's brief time in the sport, Pither says he will remember his fellow Kiwi's competitive nature and passion for his country.
The Super Black Falcon ran with ‘Dare to Dream' emblazoned on its rear wing last season – a phrase that Pither also applied to his own career as he chased a full-time Supercars opportunity.
Lentino had initially spoken of grand plans to integrate his online marketing expertise with the race team, but those took a back seat when he was first diagnosed with lung cancer last May.
“The thing that stood out for me about Tony was that he had big dreams,” said Pither of Lentino.
“When he decided he wanted to do something he went and grabbed it with both hands.
“He was very competitive, there's no doubt about that.
“He demanded results and wanted to see the Super Black car up the front.
“He was so passionate about New Zealand and the Super Black team that he'd created.”
Outside of a top 10 showing at Barbagallo in May, Super Black's season prior to Ipswich had been a rough road with two early season crashes and a string of lowly finishes.
Pither, who as a left-foot braker has a distinctly different style to his Prodrive team-mates, admits that the struggle for pace reached its zenith during the previous weekend in Townsville.
“Townsville was a tough round for us and we were all really disappointed about that,” he said.
“We lost track of where we were going and we need to be more structured and more planned.
“We'd gotten a bit lost and were probably trying to fix some weaknesses that we couldn't possibly fix and in hindsight we hurt where we were strong.
“At QR we went back to the basics and it paid off.
“Now that we've ticked that box with the pole position we want to continue that for Tony and keep moving forward.
“Hopefully we can get some podium finishes at some point and eventually a race win one day.”