Rick Kelly aims for top 10

  • 22/08/2014
  • By V8 Supercars
  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship

Jack Daniel's factory Nissan Altima driver Rick Kelly is determined to claim a top 10 V8 Supercars Championship finish in 2014 and avoid his worst finishing position since joining the category full-time in 2002.

It's a tall order considering the 2006 V8 Supercars Champion currently runs 16th in the points heading into this weekend's Super Sprint event at the Sydney Motorsport Park 400.

Kelly is desperate to defend his exceptional Championship record, which includes nine consecutive top 10 finishes between 2003 and 2011.

In the last two seasons he has finished 14th, which means if he stays where he is now he will record his worst Championship finish since he became a full-time driver in 2002, when he finished 12th for the Holden Young Lions.

But the 31-year old from Mildura says improvement is achievable, if he can find the consistency he has lacked so far in 2014 and potentially have a little luck in the Pirtek Enduro Cup, in which he will share his Altima with David Russell.

"I want to finish 10th in the Championship," he told v8supercars.com.au. "In order to finish 10th I need to finish higher than the guys around me.

"And a lot of those guys have got better cars, but haven't got the consistency, or have made mistakes. If I could just finish between eighth and 12th then we could do it.

"And there are also huge unknowns still coming with the enduros. At Bathurst I could move up four spots in one day, so it's really close on points between us, but it's a huge ask for me to get into the 10.

"Even the top 10 is not where I want to be, I want to be up the front. But for us right now that's the next step."

To hit that top 10 goal, Kelly would most likely have to leapfrog team-mates Michael Caruso and James Moffat in the Norton Hornets Nissan Altimas, who run 12th and 15th respectively.

Caruso, who has been the form Nissan driver all year, has 1059 points; Moffat has 1017 and Kelly 1005. Bottle-O Ford Falcon driver David Reynolds currently sits 10th in the title chase on 1201 points.

Kelly, who for much of his career has been the lead points scorer in the teams he has raced for, says he is relishing the challenge of beating Caruso and Moffat, who have both starred over the last couple of years.

"I went through a lot of years where I was in front ... and now they are really pushing us to keep improving and keep changing things to compete with them and beat them," he said.

"We have that great competition between us and that's what you need always in a team; to make sure it's a healthy competition that drives us forward.

"That's the dynamic we have got there now. We are all good mates, but we are all pushing to beat each other now."

Giving Kelly cause for optimism that he can find more speed at Sydney Motorsport Park is Nissan Motorsport's encouraging form at Queensland Raceway three weeks ago, where some important set-up gains were made.

Feasibly, both Moffat and Caruso could have left as race winners, while Kelly claimed a fifth in the opening 100km Race 23 and then had top 10 pace in the 200km Race 25.

And Moffat and Rick's brother, fellow team owner and Jack Daniel's driver Todd Kelly, have already told v8supercars.com.au that Sydney Motorsport Park is a venue that should work for the Altimas, which have sweet handling but engines down on power compared to the best in the category.

The Nissans have also performed well at the two pre-season tests conducted in New Generation V8 Supercars at SMP the last two years.

But Kelly says he is no longer interested in gazing into a crystal ball and trying to forecast just how the Nissans will perform.

"I am done with guessing how we are going to go and saying we are going to go good or we are going to go bad because of this or whatever.

"For us the category is quite close now, so it doesn't take much for someone to be up the front or up the back, so you just have to put in as much work as always on turning up relatively well prepared and just see how it goes and give it your best through the weekend.

"We are going into the weekend with a known package for us and we will absolutely get the most out of it... If that means we finish fifth or 10th and that's the best possible result we could have got, then so be it, we will make sure we get that."

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