Outstanding young New Zealand driver Scott McLaughlin is cautiously optimistic about his new Volvo drive as the V8 Supercars championship gets under way in Adelaide this weekend.
With two wins under his belt - the youngest driver to collect a chequered flag in the history of the championship - McLaughlin finished 10th in his first full season last year and claimed the rookie award.
Now his Garry Rogers Motorsport team have taken charge of Volvo's move into the V8s scene.
McLaughlin switches from a Holden to the Swedish luxury brand under the name of Valvoline Racing GRM, where he debuts the Volvo Polestar S60s as the championship brings in new flavour.
McLaughlin felt the car's initials tests at the Eastern Creek circuit, where he completed around 100 laps, had been promising.
"I sort of wasn't expecting to go out and blitz everyone, you don't expect that," the 20-year-old said.
"Actually, I'm very happy because it was reliable, so that was the main thing. I think our engine is quite reliable, more so than we thought."
McLaughlin felt there was work to do on the chassis and that has been an area of focus in the leadup to Adelaide for the Clipsal 500.
No-one is expecting an instant challenge to the Ford and Holden dominance of V8s but with practice and qualifying in Adelaide on Friday, McLaughlin is under pressure to show competitiveness ahead of the weekend's opening three races.
He finished sixth and ninth in last year's races there and likes the circuit.
"We'll come out to Clipsal and see how we go," he said. "You never know, we might go ok, we might not, but we'll find out."
McLaughlin is partnered in the team by Swedish import Robert Dahlgren.
He finished third in the 2013 Scandinavian Touring Car Championship for Volvo Polestar Racing and has previously won the Swedish and Nordic Formula Ford Championships before moving to England and winning the British equivalent.
McLaughlin will carry plenty of New Zealand hopes in this year's championship but he's not alone.
Shane van Gisbergen finished fifth last year and Fabian Coulthard sixth, with hopes high they can push on and be title contenders.
Auckland hosts the fifth meeting on the calendar with the ITM 500 at Pukekohe.
- Fairfax Media
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