Rick Kelly hopes a performance upswing at Hidden Valley can be continued at the Watpac Townsville 400 despite the track providing previous challenges to the Nissan squad.
Kelly secured Nissan Mototsport’s first pole position of the season on the Saturday at Darwin, reversing a form trend that had all four of its cars struggling to match their 2016 performances.
While his race ultimately ended in a DNF due a stuck throttle, Kelly believes Darwin pointed towards a form reversal for the four-car team.
With only seven top 10 points scoring finishes across the four factory Altimas in 2017, Kelly said the results in the Northern Territory masked progress the team made behind the scenes.
“Traditionally, Darwin has been a kind track to the Nissan and Townsville has been a challenging track,” Kelly told Supercars.com.
“I think we did find more gains than we could have at Darwin, so we’re certainly hoping that rolls into Townsville.
“We’ve made some positive changes we felt affect us in a good way.
“You’re trying different stuff on different cars and the more cars on the track the faster you can progress.”
Kelly added the new Dunlop tyres continue to provide the biggest problem to solve for the team.
Despite approaching the half-way point of the season, the veteran driver explained the change in construction had proved more significant than initial indications.
The car #15 driver topped the pre-season test at Sydney Motorsport Park in addition to impressing at the Clipsal 500 throughout the sessions.
“I think the biggest significance in the tyres is the failures, more than anything,” said Kelly, who is debuting a new chassis this weekend.
“The different construction does mean different setup traits and different ways of getting the most out of the tyre.
“Because at the end of the day it connects the race car to the track.
“I think it will still take time for some teams to maximise the tyre underneath them.”
While Dunlop’s 2016 hard tyre will be used at the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 and ITM Auckland SuperSprint, Kelly said a lack of previous data for this new tyre has increased the challenge this season.
“You go to different tracks and you’re presented with different surfaces, different temperatures and different styles of corners at all the circuits we go to,” he added.
“This is the first year we’re on a different tyre and every time we turn up to an event it’s the first time we’re running it.
“It takes some learning to get the most out of it and we’re certainly not treating that lightly.
“We’re doing as much work as we think we can on maximising it to the tracks we go to.”