Report card: Rick Kelly

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 10/06/2016
  • By Bruce Newton

With a break between Winton and Darwin, is analysing the drivers’ results and performances in this first part of the season. The racing is the closest in history, with nine different winners in 11 races.

Rick Kelly Winton 2016

Rick Kelly, Sengled Racing
George Commins 

Average qualifying position: 9.1
Average finishing position: 10.5
Championship position: 9
Points to leader: 282
Wins: 0
Pole positions:

Best result: Tasmania Saturday fourth
Was a contender at a circuit where the Nissan’s aren’t usually strong. Sat third in the points after that race.

Low point: Sunday Tassie 25th.
Brake explosion robbed him of another strong result and potentially leading the championship at the end of the weekend. 

For: The Nissan Altima is more competitive than it has ever been and as a result Rick Kelly is back where he belongs; qualifying in the top 10 and racing there. But for all his pace Kelly has been unable to get on to the podium. In Perth on Sunday he was 1.7 sec from first, at Winton 0.6 sec from third on Saturday. So close yet so far! Kelly admits to being both motivated and frustrated by his results. He knows that top three finish isn’t far away and from there the climb to the top step begins. His run of good results means he is now the top ranked Nissan driver in the championship, albeit only narrowly ahead of Michael Caruso. 

Against: Kelly’s race versus qualifying result averages show him going backwards, but a lot of that is down to his spectacular Symmons Plains DNF. Fifteenth on Sunday at Winton was a disappointment after qualifying seventh, but the Sengled car was caught out by the timing of the safety car intervention. He struggled for pace at Phillip Island, apportioning some of the blame to himself and some to the car.

Kelly is sometimes criticised for being consistent rather than dynamic in his racing, as per his 2006 championship win, but getting into the top six these days requires speed as well consistency.

Rick Kelly of the Nissan Motorsport during the Woodstock Winton SuperSprint,  at the Winton Motor Raceway, Winton, Victoria, May 21, 2016.

The team: Kelly told after Winton that it was now up to Nissan Motorsport to get the “one-percenters” right, referring to the clutch, electrical and engine issues he encountered over the course of that weekend. But under Scott Sinclair’s direction there is no doubt the team has become stronger and more professional. Kelly has teamed with engineer George Commins for a second consecutive year in 2016 and they are showing the hallmarks of being a strong combination.

The summer departure of the team’s tech chief Craig Spencer back to F1 and the splitting of his responsibilities between Perry Kapper (engineering manager) and Neil Price (crew chief) appears to have gone smoothly.

However, Kapper is going to have to engineer Todd Kelly’s car while a replacement is found for Jesse Walker, who left suddenly after Winton for a job in the automotive industry in California. Will Kapper’s added workload have an impact? 

Rating: B+
Has posted some truly outstanding results, is beating his team-mates, will win somewhere some time.

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