Nissan Motorsport’s Rick Kelly has ended the first day’sracing at the Austin 400 delighted to have claimed the team’s highest ever Championshipfinish with sixth place in race 13 but frustrated not to have matched it nexttime out after his Altima ran out of fuel.
The Jack Daniel’s driver finished the second 100km outing ineighth place after sitting as high as fourth. For the last few laps he held outFPR’s Mark Winterbottom with the fuel alarm warning on and then ran out at thelast corner.
He was passed by Winterbottom and Fujitsu Racing GRM Commodore driverScott McLaughlin.
If he had been able to hang on Kelly would have been thefirst factory-backed car home in Race 14 behind the dominant Red Bull duo ofJamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes, who ran 1-2 in both races.
He was beaten home in Race 13 by Winterbottom’s teammateWill Davison and Holden Racing Team's Garth Tander, but in Race 14 showed a clean pair of heels to Tander and teammate James Courtney.
Kelly also posted the Nissan team’s highest previous Championshiprace finish with a seventh place in New Zealand. Norton driver James Moffatstill has the team’s best finish of all – a fifth place at the non-ChampionshipAustralian Grand Prix.
“We knew if the race went greenall the way we would be tight on fuel,” Kelly said. “It’s just the way it isfor us. We are brand new and they set the race lengths so that we have to fillthe thing to the brim to get there.
“We kept ‘Frosty’ behind with a horsepoweradvantage and every other advantage you could poke a stick with and we had theguy covered. But we lost two spots when the fuel ran out.”
The Altima is powered by aproduction-based Nissan VK56DE engine that is being developed by the team. Itshorsepower deficit to the established Ford and Holden has been well chronicled,but it has also proved thirstier than them.
The power deficit was reduced atthe Circuit of the Americas because the short circuit has 20 turns, allowingthe Nissan’s good handling to shine.
“We have got to be happy with twotop 10s,” Kelly added. “We are going to struggle to move any further forwardfrom that unless someone makes a mistake because of the power deficit we havehere.
“But I am really stoked, when youlook in front and there are only a couple of cars, that really drives you. AtPerth in the last round I couldn’t see the font of the pack!”