Nissan graft sweetened Kelly's drought-breaker

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 11/01/2019
  • By Mitchell Adam

The path his family's Supercars operation trod to improve the Nissan Altima made Rick Kelly's first win in six-and-a-half years more rewarding than victories earlier in his career.

Kelly won nine races, including two Bathursts, and the 2006 title with Walkinshaw Racing before branching out with brother Todd to form Kelly Racing in '09.

He added three more wins in Commodores, the last at Sandown in November 2011 before the start of the Nissan program in '13.

The Altima has not yielded regular success, taking one win in 2013 and another in '16, but was significantly stronger last year.

Kelly's victory at Winton was his first in the Nissan the outfit he co-owns developed, and ended the longest winless run of his career.

"When you do get great results, it does mean a lot more, because of the work that we've done and where we've come from," he told Supercars.com.

"We've come from a package that was not that great and have turned it into something that's not where we want to be, but is certainly greatly improved.

"That's been a tough but rewarding program, especially with all of the guys and girls within the team that have made that possible.

"It's a big difference, driving a competitive car and winning a race, to driving with a team that has had to build that car from a lower base.

"It's a big thing and I've done both in my career – I've driven with teams that are very well-equipped and have very fast cars and won.

"And I've worked a built up our own team with Todd and everyone else and won, and it's a lot more rewarding when you've come through that to get the win."

The Winton victory was one of four podiums Kelly claimed in 2018 on his way to eighth in the championship, the best-ever result for an Altima driver.

He has now taken eight of the 16 podiums recorded by Nissan drivers since 2013.

Kelly's win came in the wake of Nissan announcing it would withdraw its factory backing of the squad at the end of the season.

The squad has now reverted from Nissan Motorsport to the Kelly Racing moniker used from 2009-12.

Asked if he was confident a win would eventually come in an Altima, Kelly said: "You're always hopeful and you're always working as hard as you can to try and achieve that.

"For us, it came on that day. We were presented with an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands.

"We've done a lot of work over the last five or six years with the package we've got.

"We started with a base that was well behind everyone else, so our development course had to be far more aggressive than theirs.

"We're still obviously not where we'd hope to be but nevertheless we've improved a lot to be able to get those results."

Stay In The Know
Sign up to the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship Newsletter