Following the death of Super Black Racing founder Tony Lentino, the future of the all-Kiwi Supercars Championship squad now hangs in doubt. But team principal Greg Hahn affirmed the team would do everything possible to return for 2017 and beyond.
“We probably would've liked to have made some better progress [with our 2017 plans] by now, but we've had to respect the timing of the passing of Tony Lentino,” Hahn said.
“We have a huge investment in our Racing Entitlement Licence — we own that. We have a team in place at the moment, and a supplier.”
It’s been a tumultuous time for the team, with Lentino’s death juxtaposed with Super Black Racing and Chris Pither’s first pole position just days before, claimed at Queensland Raceway.
The achievement later became a significant talking point, with a high-profile Australian journalist questioning the performance by saying the field resembled a “reverse grid” with Pither in the lead. The comments prompted Pither, a multiple V8 Ute championship winner, to respond on social media.
Kiwi Chris Pither has shown improvement over the course of the 2016 Supercars Championship season. Picture / Getty Images.
The journalist later commended the New Zealander’s passion for the sport.
“[Those comments] were completely unqualified,” said Hahn.
“There was no default of getting pole — he didn't get there because of somebody crashing, he didn't get there because it was raining.
“We started that weekend event about Tuesday that week, and we knew we were going to dig deep and basically overturn every stone and check everything and do everything possible.
“That’s what made it so very deserving to position where we did. We had gone out there and as a team we had earned it.”
Super Black Racing’s improving form comes as the paddock prepares for the endurance phase of the championship, which includes the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
Chris Pither and his Super Black Racing crew celebrate the team's first ever Supercars Championship pole position. Picture/Getty Images.
Pither will be joined for the three events by established GT and open-wheel racer Richie Stanaway, who has impressed many in testing, including Hahn.
“He's definitely fast, he's that ‘European spec’. He told me on Monday that he just clicked with [the car] on that day, and now he feels that he knows what it does and what its habits are.
“We flew back to Auckland that night and he couldn't stop talking about it. He had a grin on his face that whole way.”
With Pither and Stanaway both getting into their stride, Hahn is confident about what October could bring for the team on the second anniversary of their giant-killing Mt Panorama debut.
“I'm very confident. This year we're all smarter and we've got a combination that I think is going to be a good one, so we're hunting a result this year.