Kelly chases GT ace Chiyo for Supercar test

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 03/02/2017
  • By Stefan Bartholomaeus

Nissan Motorsport co-owner Todd Kelly is eager to give Bathurst 12 Hour star Katsumasa Chiyo a run in an Altima Supercar.

Chiyo, 30, has earned cult hero status among Bathurst 12 Hour fans with a succession of headline making drives at the GT event. 

Bouncing back from a heavy crash on debut in 2014, Chiyo pulled off two passes on the final restart to win the race the following year.

His reputation as a hard charger was furthered in 2016 when he stormed through to second place, pulling off a late-race pass on the Mountain Straight grass in the process.

Chiyo’s Japanese SuperGT commitments mean he is unavailable for the Pirtek Enduro Cup this year, as was the case in 2016. 

Regardless, Chiyo’s Bathurst heroics see Kelly keen to find an opportunity to evaluate the Nismo factory driver. 

“We’ve tried a couple of times to fit his schedule in with one of our test days or even to do a rookie day just for him,” Kelly told Supercars.com.

“It’s quite challenging with our calendar and the amount of times we can actually get our cars out away from the race meeting is very minimal. 

“One day hopefully it will line up and we can get him in there because it’d be great to see how he gets his head around our cars. 

“He’s certainly very fast at Bathurst and it would be great to try and do the enduros with him one year.

“We’ve had the opportunity to drive with these guys in the GT-R and we’ve given Alex (Buncombe) a run.

“But the enduros in our cars are such a big thing that we couldn’t throw him in cold, we’d have to give him a test or two first and see how he goes.” 

Chiyo joins Supercars star Michael and former Supercars enduro co-driver Buncombe for the 2017 Bathurst 12 Hour. Chiyo joins Supercars star Caruso and former Supercars enduro co-driver Buncombe for the 2017 Bathurst 12 Hour.

Chiyo says he has seen Supercars races on television and is eager to get behind the wheel.

“I hope one day I can drive a Supercar, it is going to be interesting,” Chiyo told Supercars.com.

“I love the racing in Supercars. Lots of street circuits and of course Bathurst.

“So I am always trying to find opportunity to drive Supercars.

“Unfortunately recently the schedule is always clashing with SuperGT.

“But in the future if one day I can drive, it will be great."

Chiyo is leading Nissan’s charge at Bathurst this weekend, teaming with Buncombe and Supercars driver Michael Caruso.

Like Caruso, Kelly is making his debut in the race, joining Florian Strauss and Jann Mardenborough in the squad’s second car. 

Kelly's entry has endured an early setback with a crash from Strauss at Sulman Park in Practice 3 causing significant front-end damage.

The car will not return to the track for the day's fourth session but is expected to be repaired for tomorrow.

The #23 Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 that Chiyo will share with Caruso and Buncombe this weekend. The #23 Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 that Chiyo will share with Caruso and Buncombe this weekend.

Despite the presence of two of its drivers, the Nissan Supercars team is playing a lower-key role in the running of the Bathurst effort this year.

“We don’t have the capacity to operate this at the level that it needs to be done with everything that we’ve got going on,” explained Kelly.

“We’ve got a new car being built at work and all the others have been stripped.

“Everyone is working big hours and to take this on wouldn’t have been good preparation for the season.”

Nissan Australia’s effort at the 12 Hour meanwhile extends beyond the race team. 

Fans at the circuit are encouraged to visit its two activation areas, offering the chance to win VIP experiences by posting a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #NissanBestSeats.

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