Jake Hill says scoring his first British Touring Car Championship podium at Brands Hatch on Sunday was a "breakthrough result".
The Goudhurst racer, 24, came from 25th on the grid to finish a sensational second behind Senna Proctor following an inspired switch to slick tyres before the start of race two.
Hill - who began his car racing career 10 years ago - had struggled in qualifying and race one, but bounced back in race two to score his best-ever finish, winning the independent drivers class.
"It is a breakthrough and it is what we have been working on for a very long time," Hill said.
"It has done me and the team a world of good and I can't thank everyone enough.
"It was an up and down day on Sunday - we had a horrible morning, amazing lunch and terrible ending."
Hill, who was set to start race three from fifth on the grid, was hit by Mercedes driver Aiden Moffat on the green flag lap.
He was forced to pull into the pits for repairs to a broken rear toe-link, and could only finish the race three laps down in 29th.
"I am disappointed about race three, but no one can take that podium away from me," Hill added.
"We decided last-minute to go to slicks in race two; it was always going to be sketchy, but very early on I knew we’d made the right choice.
"I am beyond happy and I am so grateful to so many people who have helped me get to this point."
Hill - who is driving for Strood-based Team Hard for the third year in succession - expects his Volkswagen CC to show well at the next round at Donington Park.
Team principal Tony Gilham said: "It is great for Jake to achieve a podium.
"We were very disappointed with qualifying on Saturday but it was great to bounce back on race day.
"We made a decent call on the tyres and it has taken us to the podium, which is great."
Meanwhile, Motorbase Performance's pace was unrewarded at Brands after the team's day became marred by a series of on-track incidents.
Ford Focus RS drivers Tom Chilton, James Cole and Sam Tordoff impressed in qualifying, but were out of luck on Sunday.
Team manager Oly Collins said: "We had a great start to the weekend with a strong qualifying and a solid race one result for both Tom and James.
"Unfortunately the safety car in race two enabled the circuit to dry, and then race three was just out of our hands with contact."
Tom Ingram leads the BTCC by three points following the opening three rounds after finishing fourth, 11th and first.
The British Touring Car Championship will return to Brands Hatch for the final three rounds on September 29-30.