The 23-year-old driving Kelly Grove's move up the grid

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 30/03/2021
  • By James Pavey

Making the leap to running a Supercars team has been a "whirlwind" for Brenton Grove, who is helping fast-track Kelly Grove Racing’s move up the grid.

Grove and father Stephen are two rounds into their new journey alongside the Kelly family, having linked up with the Braeside operation ahead of the 2021 season.

In January, it was announced that the Grove Group had invested in Kelly Racing, which was renamed to acknowledge both family businesses.

Already, the project has seen David Reynolds and Penrite arrive, with the new recruit clinching his first podium since 2019 at Sandown.

Andre Heimgartner, who returns for a fourth season with the Kelly squad, has also shown impressive pace so far in 2021.

To the next round in Tasmania, both Kelly Grove Mustangs are in the top 10 in the standings.

WATCH: BEHIND THE NEW KELLY GROVE PARTNERSHIP

Commercially, the team has also made big leaps, headlined by the stunning Penrite retro livery campaigned by Reynolds at his milestone event at Sandown.

For Grove, it has been a rapid journey, but he admitted the team has a long way to go before it can consider itself a contender for wins.

"It’s been a bit of a whirlwind so far,” he said.

"Our involvement started well before the season started, but since the announcement, it’s been a short timeframe to try and get a lot of things done, and put a lot of different parts on the car.

"The progression so far is where we want it to be, but we’ve got a long way to go to be content.

"Results are an external benchmark of where we’re at; internally, we’re more focused on what our weaknesses are and where we can improve.

"If we can go to the track and have a characteristic that’s better each weekend, or drivers have better feel, that’s our key takeaway and that’s our yardstick.”

Reynolds celebrates his Sandown podium

The news of the Grove buy-in marked a key shift for the Kelly family, which had operated its own team between 2009 and 2020.

The Kellys are no strangers to big leaps of faith; between 2013 and 2019, the team campaigned four Nissan Altimas, albeit for little success.

In just two events under the Kelly Grove banner, the team has made major strides, all with the 23-year-old Grove embedded in the business.

Not that his own relative youth has anything to do with how he can make the team perform.

"I don’t really think about that side of it, to be honest. It’s a business that needs to perform," Grove explained.

"My role is to help make it perform alongside the rest of our team. A big part of it is identifying on the negatives and making sure we reduce them, and maximise the positives.

"I’m a lot more hands-on than what Steve is, but he’s skippers the strategic vision. He thinks about what’s next so I can think about what’s happening now.

The new era for Kelly Grove Racing began this year

"It’s been seamless [linking up with the Kellys]; there hasn’t really been a process, to be honest.

"It all happened naturally; we only really think about it when someone brings it up.

"For us, it’s like we’ve worked together for 15 years; everything’s simple and harmonious, and everyone brings so much to the team."

The engineer in Grove understands that gains are still to be made, and the racer in him also knows that results have already gone begging.

Notably, Heimgartner missed out on a Race 4 podium at Sandown after a late incident with Chaz Mostert.

It all stems from Grove’s attempt to balance his business commitments with the Grove Group with his role in aiding the Supercars team flourish.

WATCH: BEHIND THE SCENES OF NEW TEAM DYNAMIC

“To have a podium for Dave, and Andre should’ve been there as well, it reinforced to the team that we are heading in the right direction," he said.

"My role on a race weekend is more about overseeing things from both an operational side and a performance side.

"We’ve got a lot of smart people who run the ship day in, day out, making the big calls.

"I never get involved in the big calls; it’s more about being someone who’s one step removed and can look at things holistically.

"I’ll normally spend a day a week at the team; obviously my day job is in our group of companies, that occupies a lot of my team.

"But I make sure I go down and see the boys, and we have engineering, commercial and performance meetings."

"I’m also there for prebrief, debrief and any other performance-related event that we have.”

Heimgartner was on the pace at Sandown

Taking a leading role in the Supercars operation hasn’t dimmed Grove’s love of racing.

Earlier this month, the father and son duo combined for a pair of top three finishes at the Phillip Island Fanatec GT World Challenge Australia Powered by AWS event.

However, despite enjoying his exploits behind the wheel, the former Super2 ace knows his calling is in the garage and workshop, helping his team race to the front.

"To still be able to drive and see everything from the other side of the fence is pretty cool," he said.

"But I’m under no illusions that I prefer the team owner side versus the driving side.

"I achieved what I wanted to, and now I’m far more focused on making sure the Supercar team performs.

Brenton and Stephen at Phillip Island earlier this month

"I can bring a mix of my driving experience from Super2 and the operational side from how a Super2 team is run.

"There are a lot of good things in Supercars, but there are also a lot of good things from other categories overseas that maybe haven’t been thought about yet here.

"A passion of mine is to bring something new to the team and Supercars, rather than bring in what I already knew.”

The team’s first marker, being a podium, has already been reached just two rounds into the Kelly Grove partnership.

However, with an eye on the Gen3 regulations slated for 2022, Grove understands that the team must make gains, and quickly, should it become a force in the championship.

"It’s really exciting for us; our businesses are really fast-paced, there are a lot of different things going on in a lot of different areas,” he said.

Co-owner Todd Kelly congratulates Reynolds at Sandown

"The Supercars team has been the difference to all of that; we’re used to being at a really fast pace and getting things done really quickly.

"We’re trying to get the Supercars team to that level and get there quickly. We’re not patient people.

"We’re trying to make as much of a gain as we can, and invest in people and resources as much as we can to get the team to where we need it to be.

"Obviously, Gen3 comes in next year, so operationally, it’s important we get a lot of things right so we can hit the ground running.”

The Repco Supercars Championship field will return to Symmons Plains for the Beaurepaires Tasmania SuperSprint next month. Tickets are on sale now.

The event will be broadcast live on Foxtel and will be streamed on Kayo.

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