One thing Todd Kelly will miss now the enduros are over is mentoring the young talent he was able to bring into the team.
Now a veteran of Supercars at 37 years of age, Kelly enjoys passing on his wisdom and fulfilled a goal of his by offering now 21-year old Matt Campbell a co-driver seat in the team for the Pirtek Enduro Cup.
He mentors as part of Nissan’s GT Academy program and was on hand to help Simona De Silvestro and Renee Gracie throughout their second Bathurst campaign as a wild card fifth car for Bathurst, too.
At Townsville this year Kelly started his 500th Supercars race and despite whispers of retirement, he has been emphatic about wanting to drive on.
The 2005 Bathurst winner spoke to supercars.com about why helping young racers gives him a boost.
“It seems like only yesterday – although it was a lot longer ago – that I was in the same position and probably one of the more fortunate drivers out of Australian motorsport to have the Holden Young Lions program,” Kelly said.
“Guys like Peter Brock, Tomas Mezera, Mark Skaife and Craig Lowndes offered us young guys a heap of advice through those early stages and I remember how big a difference just a few simple little words made for me back then, regardless of what we were doing, driving and out of the cars.
“So I know what these guys are going through and it’s good to be in a position to give a little bit of the same stuff back … whether it be by telling them to keep calm, relax or whatever it might be that’s specific to them to make sure they get the most out of themselves and the opportunity.”
Campbell stitched up the Porsche Carrera Cup Championship on the Gold Coast at the weekend, and is waiting to hear whether he will be selected as a Porsche Junior Driver in 2017 to compete in next year's Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup alongside Formula 1 and earn 200,000 Euros to put towards the campaign.
“It’s a bit nail-biting,” Kelly said of the wait.
“That could really dictate where his career goes. So we’re quite keen to see what happens as well because we’d love to retain him for the enduros for sure.
“So firstly, it’s to see whether he gets the gig and if he does, whether the calendar doesn’t clash – and if it doesn’t, if it’d work in his contract. So there’s a lot that needs to be resolved.
“But he’s been an absolute pleasure to have as part of the team, so I’m glad we were able to put a deal together and give him an opportunity in the car because he did what we thought he was going to do – which was fantastic.”
Ending Bathurst in the sandtrap was disappointing, with Kelly punted with just a handful of laps remaining, but the carsales racer said Campbell took the result in his stride.
Campbell wasn’t the only Supercars rookie to perform well in the enduros, with Cameron Waters/Jack Le Brocq taking fourth at Bathurst; New Zealand pro Richie Stanaway impressing; and James Golding finding his feet in the final runs at the Gold Coast.
“It is good to get a bit of fresh blood in because a lot of the older co-drivers … those guys have been racking up some pretty decent salaries for three rounds because all the teams have been fighting over the same five or six blokes!” Kelly said.
“So to have another flux of young kids is fantastic and what you said – there’s a few little dramas over the weekends but overall they did a pretty good job.”