Nissan Motorsport is bringing a new chassis online for Rick Kelly to race at the Clipsal 500, as it prepares to have six chassis for the 2016 season.
The four car group is prepared with spares, given the tight nature of this year’s calendar and according to team boss and driver Todd Kelly, is taking a different approach to previous years behind the scenes after a staffing restructure.
“We’ve been working on a new [chassis] for a little while,” Kelly told v8supercars.com.au.
“Rick’s  car is back on the jig – most of the cars, as normal, endure a few battle scars through the year and we really like to keep ours pristine. So all our cars that have had any little issues or dings in them have gone back into the fab shop or back on the jig, tidied up and back into the paint shop so all four cars will be absolutely fresh.
“It’s six cars, really – we’ve got two spares, Rick’s will go back into the system as a spare as he’s getting a new one. So they’ll be immaculate for the first round, which is good.”
After a crash and bash final weekend at the Sydney 500, James Moffat’s car needs some TLC, and will most likely be rotated back through as a spare.
“We’re going to have to cut a reasonable amount of that car out so that’ll be the last one. We’ll get the four cars we’re starting the season with done and that will get a full birthday and back into the booth. Again, it'll be absolutely brand new, but it’ll take a bit longer to get that one sorted out.”
The year’s schedule sees smaller breaks between rounds and an additional championship event, with Kuala Lumpur in August.
Kelly was one of the lucky five who sampled the circuit last year for the demonstration event, but was required to take brother Rick’s Jack Daniel’s sponsored Altima after the turnaround from Queensland Raceway.
“That’s what really forces a lot of the teams to have spare cars,” Kelly said of the schedule.
“And spare cars that are a little bit more complete – because we’ve always had a spare car that is a little bit off running, so if we have a major drama we have to swap a few bits and pieces to get it going from whatever car has a problem.
“Certainly investing a bit more in having an extra car and having the parts so you can jump in and out is a lot easier. But that’s all part of it – so it’ just a bit of an insurance policy in case there are any problems.”
While he admits it is a lot of work to maintain spares to that level, he says there’s a lot of “hard work and heartache” when teams aren’t prepared for problems.
“It take a bit of heat off for the production departments if there’s a problem to fix as well, which is important to try and not burn all the guys out during the year, so having as many spares as possible means being able to do that.”
With results improving across the board for the Altimas in 2016, Kelly is looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of his carsales Nissan with confidence changes behind the scenes will make a difference.
In previous years the team has been aero testing during the Christmas period and implementing changes to the V8 Supercars, but this time around it has been a real break for everyone.
“It’s just good to have a fresh start again,” Kelly said.
“We had a really good first half of the year with my car and the second half was a little bit more of a struggle – so this year hopefully we can put a whole season together.
“Certainly the equipment is a lot better than it was this time last year with the engines coming online and us being able to focus a lot more on the chassis side of it.”
With the departure of Craig Spencer at the end of last season, the team was forced to restructure – but Kelly feels they’re now better placed to maximise each person’s potential.
Perry Kapper will head up the engineers and with a new chief mechanic appointed, Kapper will be “more heavily focused on the performance side” after running James Moffat last year and Kelly previously.
New recruit Dale Wood will be engineered by Nathan McColl, who steps up from data, with the other three driver-engineer combinations remaining intact from 2015.
“Our whole structure … and how we’ve placed people in different positions has really focused a lot more on the engineering side of the racing now,” he explained.
“So we should start to see some really good results now because we haven’t been able to put that kind of focus into the chassis up until now.
“I’m really quite looking forward to getting stuck into the season – it’ll be quite a different approach to what we’ve had in the past.”