Rick Kelly has announced an immediate end to a 19-year stint as a full-time Supercars driver.
Kelly’s full-time Supercars career began in 2002, spending seven seasons as part of the Clayton-based Holden empire.
That netted Bathurst 1000 victories in 2003 and ’04 alongside Greg Murphy under the K-Mart Racing banner, as well as the ’06 championship in the rebranded HSV Dealer Team.
He switched to his own Kelly Racing squad in 2009, with the intervening years yielding just a handful of wins as the team switched from Holden to Nissan and most recently Ford.
The change to the Mustang this year failed to drastically improve Kelly’s results, ending up 16th in the championship, two places behind teammate Andre Heimgartner.
Kelly celebrating his 2006 title
Kelly Racing is yet to confirm a replacement for the 37-year-old ahead of the 2021 season, or whether Kelly will return as a co-driver.
“While the 2020 season draws to a close so does my full-time Supercars driving career,” Kelly said in a statement.
“Firstly, I have really loved the opportunity to drive the Castrol-backed Ford Mustang in its first year with Kelly Racing.
Kelly ahead of his enduro debut in 2001
“There were many challenges put forward in 2020 with COVID and the Mustang program in its infancy at Kelly Racing which both have made on-track results tough at times.
“It hasn’t been the fairy-tale ending that I would love to have gone out with, but I have to step off the merry-go-round at some point and I personally feel that the right time is now.
“Whilst as a driver you always want to win, and externally your on-track results hold the biggest influence on your report card, and as you’d expect from any athlete, I’ll leave wanting more.
“But one thing’s for sure, I will step away satisfied with having always having given my best and never giving in, no matter how far back we were.
Celebrating Bathurst victory in 2003
“As a whole I’m proud of what we have achieved as a team over the last decade.
“We have relentlessly pushed hard, worked directly with three different manufacturers and represented some of the most recognised brands in the world, and delivered some great programs off the track, from creating a talent search reality TV show through to having pictures of our fans ride with us at Bathurst.
“I’d like that thank the team at Kelly Racing, and also congratulate each and every team member for what they have been able to deliver this year. It’s been nothing short of impressive.
“I’d also like to thank all of the past team members that I have worked with over the last 20 years. I have worked with so many great people in this sport.
Kelly's last win came in 2018
“And a massive thank you to all of the business partners that have supported me throughout my career both past and present.
“One of the biggest contributors to our sport is the fans, and over the years I have enjoyed many great friendships from loyal supporters.
“Thanks to each and every one of you for having our back through thick and thin, your loyalty and passion was always appreciated.”
“I have had a solid hustle over the past 20 years in motorsport, never really sitting still.
"So as far as what the future holds for me personally, as I step away from Kelly Racing I’ll firstly take some time to reflect on my decision and then go about planning a solid attack on the next chapter of my life, whatever that might be.”
Kelly at Bathurst in 2020, with co-driver Dale Wood
Added brother and team co-owner Todd Kelly: “Well done to Rick on an outstanding career.
“He has had a big impact on the sport during his time as a driver and has not only had success on the track but been a leader in both fan and sponsor engagement.
“Rick has also been a fantastic mentor to André and other young drivers with his approach to his role as a driver.
“It’s going to be quite different not having Rick driving full-time, however everyone at Kelly Racing wishes Rick all the best with his future and congratulates him on a successful career in Supercars.”