Sydney's greatest drive? Kelly's record-breaking win from 17th

10 Oct 2021
Eastern Creek became a river in 2004, with Rick Kelly winning from 17th

Sydney Motorsport Park, which will host the next four events in 2021, has staged 59 ATCC/Supercars races.

Of the 59 races, 58 have been won from positions one to seven on the grid.

The front row has been a happy launching pad in Sydney; winners have started from pole 27 times, and second 12 times.

In fact, 52 races have been won from the first two rows on the grid.

The wild outlier remains Rick Kelly, who in 2004, won from 17th on the grid - a winning spot matched by Shane van Gisbergen at Sandown in March.

Supercars are back in Sydney

In the 28 Sydney races to the 2004 race, fifth was the lowest grid spot for a winner.

Kelly blew that record out of the water - literally - at a sodden Eastern Creek.

In 1074 championship races dating back to 1960, Kelly’s run from 17th to victory remains equal eighth all time.

The Eastern Creek-based Sydney Motorsport Park hosted two rounds in 2003 and 2004.

Marcos Ambrose won both events in 2003 en route to his series title amid a run of seven wins in eight starts.

Kelly was a class above in the wet

His only blip was the early-season race in April 2004, which was taken out by Kelly.

Freshly 21 years old, Kelly was basking the afterglow of a Bathurst win with Greg Murphy in 2003, when he became the youngest driver to win the great race.

Ambrose opened the 2004 season with an Adelaide sweep, with Kelly only good enough for finishes of 12th and sixth.

In Sydney, Kelly showed that his Bathurst win with Murphy was no fluke, becoming the youngest driver to win a championship round.

Eastern Creek became a river after the late downpour

Ambrose looked to continue his dominant Eastern Creek winning run with pole position.

However, a lap 51 off saw Ambrose drop down the field, having already ceded the lead to Kelly. He would finish seventh.

Mark Skaife, Sydney's most successful driver, pressured Ambrose in the early laps following the rolling start, with rain having already lashed the circuit.

However, Skaife locked the rears at Turn 2 on lap 5, spun out and dropped to sixth, leaving Ambrose on his own in the lead.

Kelly waves to the crowd after the race was declared


Remarkably, Kelly had already made his way to fifth by the commencement of lap 6.

After an accident for Steven Ellery at Turn 1, Ambrose restarted the race in the lead.

Steven Richards was second ahead of Skaife, who was cleared by Kelly on lap 17.

After Richards stopped, Kelly mowed down Ambrose, who pitted from a narrow lead on lap 29.

Kelly stopped three laps later and was followed in by Skaife. Kelly emerged in the effective lead, with Ambrose again forced to hold off Skaife.

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On lap 38, Skaife finally cleared Ambrose, but their battling had allowed Kelly to skip away to a six-second lead.

Skaife had a clear pace advantage on Ambrose, but spun out into the gravel around Corporate Hill on lap 44.

Anticipating a Safety Car, Kelly and Ambrose stopped, with the Kmart team losing time on the left rear wheel on the #15 Commodore.

Kelly skipped away through traffic at the restart, with Garth Tander pressuring Ambrose for second.

Lowndes, Kelly and Tander on the podium

Tander got past, and Ambrose fired off at Turn 2 on lap 51, surrendering several positions.

After another restart, it was Craig Lowndes - who had won in the wet at Phillip Island in 2003 - who applied the pressure to Tander and took second.

However, the skies darkened and the heavens opened. The Safety Car was deployed, and the race was called 10 laps short of its 77-lap distance.

It was good timing for Kelly, who had Lowndes on his bumper when the race was neutralised.

"This is a great result, not only for me but also my Kmart Racing team-mates who have worked extremely hard all weekend and never gave in, it feels absolutely fantastic,” Kelly said afterwards.

"If this race had been run yesterday, we clearly wouldn't have been in contention, but the conditions changed and our car was incredible in the wet.

"Apart from having a problem changing a wheel during our pit-stop, we had a very good run today and seemed to have no trouble passing other cars, either down the inside or around the outside.

"It was the correct decision to make, the conditions made it impossible and unsafe to continue the race and I was relieved to see the [red] flag come out.

"Had we returned to racing, though, I was confident we had the speed to stay in front until the finish."

Sydney Motorsport Park will host the first of four events, the Bunnings Trade Sydney SuperNight, from October 29.

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