Nissan Motorsport co-owner Rick Kelly labeled yesterday a “genuine win” after Michael Caruso’s efforts saw him not only finish first, but complete the fastest lap after the team performed a flawless pit stop.
After consistent podium finishes in recent times, Kelly has said regularly the one per centers would make the difference, and yesterday Nissan won its second Supercars race in the new gen era since 2013.
The first victory at Winton was marred with some negative comments after the cars ran an alternate fuel mixture, which Supercars confirmed did not give a performance advantage.
However, the anomaly meant some fans were dubious when James Moffat and Caruso finished one-two in the year Nissan was just getting started.
“People will say stuff about things whenever,” Kelly said when asked of 2013.
“That race for us was our first win, the guys did a great job, and every time we go back to Winton we’re very competitive.
“But this win is, I guess, can be labelled as a more genuine win as we’ve been knocking on the door for a lot of races, whereas in 2013 we’d been at the back a lot because of the pace of the car.
“So for us, this wasn’t by chance, it wasn’t by luck it’s come from a lot of damn hard work from a bunch of brilliant people that got us there.”
Kelly called out team manager Scott Sinclair and commercial manager Nick Ryan as key figures in his and brother Todd’s “new age team”.
“We made the shift to Nissan, it took us a while to get to where we are now and now we have a team that can run up the front and win races, so it is a credit to everyone involved.
“A lot of people along the way have stepped away from our race team when things got tough, and others have stepped in to grab it by the nuts and give it their best shot.
“It’s exciting for everyone that has stuck with us to get to this point where we are a race winning, competitive team.”
An extensive engine program has been the focus of the team for some time but Kelly says they have now been able to “in the last eight months, to shift our resources from under the bonnet to the entire team”.
A solid finish in 2015, including a podium for Kelly and co-driver David Russell in a tight fuel race at the Gold Coast promised the team would be a contender for wins this season. And while Kelly didn’t want to get ahead of himself yesterday, he believes there is more to come.
“You know, we’re not going to just come up and win everything but it certainly is an example of how strong we are now…. We’ve had good pace for pretty much the entire year, with the amount of work that everyone had done we’ve been knocking on the door for some time, so it is very exciting to get there there’s no doubt about that.
“It’s been well documented the path we’ve taken to get here, and I’m excited that it’s actually happened.”
The win came in difficult conditions with typical high temperatures in Darwin – which drivers will experience again today, for a longer 200km race.
“It was very hot, similar to other years at this place,” Kelly said.
“You know what it’s like, 35 degrees outside and 55 to 60 in the car makes it extra difficult – that’s why when you get a good result here like we’ve got, it's well-deserved.
“To Michael and Steve’s [engineer Steven Todkill] credit, when those guys are on, they’re absolutely on.
“Yesterday was a fantastic example of that, with a fantastic qualifying effort, and race as well.”