With a break between Winton and Darwin, supercars.com 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.
Todd Kelly, carsales Racing Engineer: Perry Kapper
Average qualifying position: 15.8 Average finishing position: 12.5 Championship position: 13 Points to leader: 380 Wins: 0 Pole positions: 0
For: After years of struggles Todd Kelly is showing flashes of the form that had him driving a factory Holden and winning races last decade.
He will likely never return to those heady heights, but Kelly has been unfairly singled out more than once as a driver who is on his last legs.
His championship results in recent years have not been good but much of that is because he has had to juggle three roles within Nissan Motorsport – owner, technical chief and driver.
Even going back to the privateer Holden days his car was the test mule at races for the all-important development process.
As the Altima came good last year Kelly showed signs of good form – as well as winning dummy spit of the year when he had what he thought was a private in-car meltdown at Ipswich.
If you wondered if the competitive spirit still burned bright then there was your answer.
This year he started the year strongly with two sixths at the Clipsal, then backed that up with a seventh in Western Australia.
There have been five more finishes just outside the top 10 as well.
Using a veteran’s ability to navigate through the drama and with the aid of some strong strategy calls from new engineer Jesse ‘The Pirate’ Walker, Kelly has set himself the task of finishing in the championship top 10 in 2016.
Achieve that and the annual calls for his retirement might be quietened.
Against: Kelly is not qualifying close enough to the front, having only cracked the top 10 once all year.
Improve that – and both his brother Rick and Michael Caruso have shown the Altima is top 10 qualifying material now – and his chances of good results go through the roof.
Since Winton he has also lost Walker to an automotive industry role overseas and his old engineer Perry Kapper has temporarily stepped into the breach.
Kelly’s racing is also still being affected by the multiple hats he wears at the team, even though the pressure has come off somewhat thanks to the unflappable Scott Sinclair’s over-arching off-track role and the improved pace of the Altima.
But there have also been some unfortunate car issues that have affect his results – the stuck throttle in the 200km race in Perth made 23rd an achievement.
Kelly isn’t above making the odd mistake himself, stalling in pitlane and flat-spotting his front tyres on Saturday at the Island and stalling in the pits again at Winton.
The team: As brother Rick has noted, the Altima is good enough now that the difference between a great, good, average and poor result really depends on the “one per-centers” in terms of car prep, set-up, engineering and driver performance.
The summer departure of the team’s tech chief Craig Spencer back to F1 and the splitting of his responsibilities between Kapper (engineering manager) and Neil Price (crew chief) appears to have gone smoothly.
However, Kapper’s move back on to Todd Kelly’s car while a replacement is found for Walker might have an impact on the overall operation.
Rating: C Todd is racing well but qualifying poorly.