Rising Supercars star Anton De Pasquale knows he’ll be stepping into an intense spotlight when this year’s championship starts at Bathurst on the weekend.
The 25-year-old has slipped into the seat vacated by Scott McLaughlin at Dick Johnson Racing, after the three-time Supercars champion’s move to America’s IndyCar series.
After establishing his potential during three full seasons with Erebus Motorsport, the change of team is a career-defining one for De Pasquale.
Team owner and Supercars legend Johnson already feels De Pasquale is at a similar point in his driving career as McLaughlin was when he moved to DJR in 2017.
It’s a comparison De Pasquale is happy to accept.
“Obviously coming from legend like Dick, about a legend like Scotty now in the sport, it’s a cool thing,” De Pasquale told AAP.
“If I go on to do half as good as what those blokes have done than I’ve had a good time.”
De Pasquale heads into his first race with DJR after finishing eighth in the 2020 championship, a season which included his first race win.
He’s only too aware that expectations will be much higher at DJR, however, as they attempt to prove they can stay at the top without McLaughlin or the influence of American billionaire Roger Penske.
“I got the opportunity to join the most successful team in the recent past with the fastest cars and the fastest driver and all that stuff,” De Pasquale said.
“You’re replacing that which is hard and it’s obviously the highest pressure seat you can probably get, but at the same time that’s sort of what sport’s about and it’s an opportunity I wanted and I’m thankful for.
“I take it with two hands and try and run with it.”
The 2021 championship starts with the Bathurst 500 at the iconic Mount Panorama circuit, featuring two 250km races, one on Saturday and the other on Sunday.