Kelly’s surprise amid Ford switch

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 10/12/2019
  • By Stefan Bartholomaeus

Supercars veteran Rick Kelly has been pleasantly surprised by the way he’s been welcomed into the Ford fold ahead of 2020, having initially feared backlash from fans.

After 553 career Supercars Championship race starts split 327 in Holdens and 226 in Nissans, Kelly joins the Blue Oval next year as part of Kelly Racing’s move to Mustangs.

Prior to the team’s last seven years running Nissans, both Rick and brother Todd were closely associated with Holden, spending extended stints as part of the factory-backed empire.

Both made their full-time debuts in the category under the Holden Young Lions banner before progressing through the ranks at Clayton.

For Rick, that included taking the 2003 and ’04 Bathurst 1000s with K-Mart Racing and the ‘06 championship title with the HSV Dealer Team.

Kelly Racing ran Holdens for its first four seasons from 2009, but took on the Nissan project in a bid to gain factory backing.

Geared up as a manufacturing team, the Kellys elected to build Mustangs for 2020 rather than switch to the Commodore, for which many body parts must be purchased through Triple Eight.

The team is currently in the process of constructing two Mustangs for the new season, as well as undertaking an in-house engine program.

Asked if it feels bizarre to be a Ford driver after all these years, Rick said: “Personally that's been a massive thing.

“Obviously I have driven for two other manufacturers, and the first one I drove with was the big enemy, you know.

“So that was a concern for me when we first announced it - from more so what everyone else’s reaction would be to it.

“For me, it was an interesting day walking into the Ford office for the first meeting and seeing the logo on the wall and wondering what it would turn into.

“I've been really pleasantly surprised by the reaction, of not only Ford to welcome us into their family, but the Ford fanbase.

“That was the concern, what would be the backlash there, and everyone’s really welcomed us in.

“Even on the drivers’ parade around the Newcastle track, the amount of people that come up in the signing sessions now in their Ford gear and welcome us has been a real surprise.

“That's something that we’re excited about, and getting out and representing both the brand and the fanbase behind it.”

Kelly and teammate Andre Heimgartner were allocated classic convertible Mustangs for the Newcastle drivers’ parade as they prepared for the Altima’s last hurrah.

Kelly is also keen to point out that his family history isn’t all about Holdens.

“I’ve got an old pickup truck that’s a Ford, and Ford’s been a part of my heritage in Mildura to some extent anyway,” he said.

“One of Dad’s best workers that we grew up with is a mad Ford fan, so he’s probably the first one that was most excited about this shift!”

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