Rick Kelly’s Engineer Erik Pender described next week’s test days at Winton Raceway as Practice Part Zero, ahead of the V8 Supercars event there.
Nissan Motorsport will run its first test days of the season with all four cars present – and a few additions to the team, with co-drivers and international drivers also set to jump behind the wheel.
The two-day test session at Winton on Monday and Tuesday will allow the team to run Nismo Global Driver Exchange international drivers Lucas Ordonez, who will drive James Moffat’s #360 Norton Hornet, and Michael Krumm, taking Rick Kelly’s #15 Jack Daniel’s Racing Nissan.
The following day will be for the team’s four regular drivers.
Todd Kelly recently told v8supercars.com.au once the engines were “sorted out” the team would be good enough to win championships, making a point that he – as well as his brother – had a few years left in him as a driver.
Pender agreed Nissan Motorsport could get to the pointy end – the team knows the weaknesses of the cars and will focus on the finer details, narrow in on what the cars like, and where the boundaries are during the test.
“The cars aren’t too bad – we know the areas where we are weak,” Pender told v8supercars.com.au.
“We’re not going to throw an encyclopedia at them, but there are a few things to work to. We will confirm trends at our home track.
“It’s basically Practice Part Zero at Winton Raceway.”
The key is to go into the Winton 360 all guns blazing.
“If we can be strong out of the box, it sets us up for the whole weekend, and that’s important for us. We’re looking for a strong result.”
The two-day testing structure means the international and co-drivers are able to get plenty of laps without impacting the plan for the following day, though Pender said the team was looking forward to running the internationals and felt they had something to offer the team.
“The Gold Coast has opened our eyes to how experienced they (international drivers) are and how methodical their work practices are,” Pender said. “Both have come through a lot of categories, so we’re looking forward to those guys coming out and sitting in the cars without preconceived ideas.”
While running new drivers doesn’t often unearth new information, it can confirm the team’s direction.
“When you’re working with guys who have driven the cars a long time … I think there’s still a bit of ‘how it felt last year’ directing the engineering. This is a chance for us to be fresh.”
While Rick’s best result was recorded back in May at the Austin 400, Pender doesn’t believe there’s been a decline in form. Rather, the Circuit of the Americas really suited the car. Rick qualified well and stayed out of trouble.
“We raced at the front with the guys you can race with,” Pender said.
“Some of the tracks since then we’ve been hurting because of straight line issues.”
And once again, qualifying was the key to success.
“Not qualifying so well, in the mid-pack, you lose so much momentum. You can’t get a clean lap, you get dive bombed and shoved and end up fighting.
“I don’t think, on (car) 15, there’s been a reversal in form. We’ve been working really well, really working out what the car likes and applying it.
“We’ve got a heap of confidence going forward. Winton’s a track that should suit us better – there’s no big, long straight and there’s plenty of corners.”
Nissan Motorsport will be joined at Winton Raceway by Brad Jones Racing on Monday, and Fujitsu Garry Rogers Motorsport and Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport on Tuesday.