Nissan Motorsport team owner Rick Kelly has said locking Michael Caruso in as a driver beyond this season was a major business priority for the team.
Fresh off a one-two result, with Caruso following teammate James Moffat home at the Winton 360, Kelly spoke highly of Caruso’s ability and what he brought to the four-car squad.
The week prior to Winton Moffat announced signing a mutli-year deal with the outfit to continue driving his ‘Norton Hornet’.
“With the team having four solid entries, it’s good from an economies of scale point of view, but the ambition is to have four really capable drivers in there,” Kelly told v8supercars.com.au.
“Both Michael and James are exactly that.
“They proved it on the weekend and it’s extremely important to lock both of those guys away, as we have with James.
“They can both deliver, they’re both good for the team and we want them there.
“We want drivers who deliver results in the cars – including Todd (Kelly) and I – and they are capable… Michael is a great asset to us and when we signed him last year it was part of a long-term plan.”
Caruso – whose last win in a V8 Supercar was in 2009 – seemed keen to remain with the team and described the contract process as a formality.
“Everything’s going well," he said of the negotiations. "It’s no stress at the moment, to be honest. I think everyone wants to do the same sort of thing, which is great.
“When you start doing contract negotiations at this time of year it’s quite busy. We’ve got ride days, Sandown and Bathurst coming up – you’re never at home!”
The 30-year old is mindful not to let off-track talks affect his racing.
“I’m not really stressed about my future or anything like that, it will more be a formality of what I do.
“The important thing is, while this is going on – and I’m sure every driver is the same – that you continue to focus as much as you can when you’re at the race track purely on driving well and doing the best job you can for your team.”
Caruso – who currently sits 22nd in the Championship – felt achieving a podium result in the team’s first year was “big”. But surprisingly it was the team’s recent test day that boosted his confidence in the car.
The Winton results have not affected his consideration of staying with Nissan Motorsport.
“I think I’ve always had belief in the team no matter what we achieved at Winton,” Caruso said.
“I think the important thing is we’re always focused on doing well, particularly that we’re all aware that we’re down on horsepower. For me personally, the important thing is we continue to improve.
“The big thing to help me move forward and be more comfortable in our car was our test day. That really helped me get an understanding of my car and my engineer (Steven Todkill) as well.
“Unfortunately that test came deep in to the season, but that’s how it panned out. We were quite busy continuously trying to get the right things on the car.