Pukekohe a good V8 hunting ground: Kelly

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 11/04/2013
  • By AAP

The last time the V8 Supercars raced at Pukekohe in New Zealand, everyone was chasing Rick Kelly.

It was 2007, he had won the championship as a brash 23-year-old the year before and he took the chequered flag in a Holden VZ Commodore at the track just south of Auckland.

A lot has changed since then.

Kelly has finished between fourth and 14th in the championship, started a new team with his older brother Todd and now drives a Nissan.

But after five years on a street circuit in Hamilton, Kelly is hoping a switch of the New Zealand round back to an upgraded Pukekohe Park Raceway will be the catalyst for him to get the best out of his new Nissan Altima in its debut season.

"I'm stoked to be back," said Kelly on Thursday.

"Heading into this weekend, it brings back fond memories.

"It's going to be tough to produce the same result this year ... but nevertheless, you always enjoy coming back to a place where you've gathered some good results.

"It's a track that we enjoy and a couple of changes there as well, which we can capitalise on."

The 2.9km circuit has undergone a $NZ6.6 million ($A5.45 million) upgrade since Kelly's victory, including the addition of three new corners at the end of the back straight.

"There's a tricky few corners there because all the braking areas are pretty kerbed," Kelly said.

"So it's going to promote a bit of overtaking and be quite difficult to slow our style of car down without locking the tyres.

"We're excited to get out there and see what it's like."

Preparations for the event have been frantic, with teams rushing their cars and equipment across Bass Strait and the Tasman from the last round in Tasmania just last weekend.

But Kelly believes the short turnaround is a positive for him, given he's still becoming accustomed to the intricacies of his Nissan.

"It's tough on the mechanics and engineers," said Kelly, who sits in 14th spot in the standings.

"But from a driver's point of view, it's good. We get to carry good momentum and really start to work on these cars.

"We're still getting comfortable with them and the more laps we can do, the better."

The 27-man field will be competing for the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy this weekend, named in honour of the Kiwi V8 driver who died of a rare form of cancer in 2011.

The new trophy will be awarded to the driver with the best combined results over the four 100km races.

New Zealander Fabian Coulthard is the form pilot having won two of the three races at Symmons Plains in Tasmania, but Jamie Whincup's consistency has lifted the Holden champion to the top of the standings ahead of Ford's Will Davison and Holden's James Courtney.

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