In its continuing search to replace the ailing Greg Murphy with top talent, Kelly Racing went down the uncommon path for this weekend’s V8 Supercars Sucrogen Townsville 400.
Kelly Racing signed a surprising deal with former Formula 1 and Indy Car champion Jacques Villeneuve to fill in for Murphy, who is recovering from midseason back surgery that has sidelined him for the last two events.
“When this opportunity came up only one week ago, the stars all aligned and thankfully my commitments with the NASCAR Nationwide Penske team in America and Porsche Supercup in Europe allowed me to grab the Pepsi Max Crew seat for the Townsville race in an instant,” Villeneuve said. “I feel for Greg Murphy having to miss a number of races in the championship as there is nothing worse for a race driver than sitting on the side lines with an injury and not being able to accumulate points in the series.”
Villeneuve is sporting a new livery for the Townsville event this weekend, carrying a lime-green Pepsi Max sponsorship on his #51 Holden Commodore. The 1995 Indianapolis 500 champ is no stranger to the V8 Supercars, having competed as part of the Gold Coast all-star event a year ago with Paul Dumbrell, finishing fifth in Sunday’s finale.
Villeneuve, one of three men (Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi) to have won the F1, Indy Car and Indy 500 titles, brings some international intrigue to this weekend’s pair of 200km events and should focus more eyes on the exciting series according to series CEO David Malone. “It’s a real coup for North Queensland to have an international motorsport legend the caliber of Jacques coming to racing in Townsville for three days,” said Malone. “For Townsville this is huge news, he is a household name worldwide.”