Nissan Motorsport’s ever-improving four-car V8 Supercars team is looking forward to its next challenge at Hidden Valley Raceway in Darwin this weekend.
The factory Nissan outfit heads to Darwin on the back of its best race weekend to date, which saw Jack Daniel’s-backed star Rick Kelly finish inside the top 10 in all four races.
Norton 360-backed driver James Moffat sits just one place behind Kelly in the title having claimed six top 10 results so far in 2013.
Moffat is a fan of the Hidden Valley layout, and with the meeting set to feature both hard and soft compound tyres, he says that tyre life in the hot Darwin conditions will be a huge factor next weekend.
For Moffat’s Norton team-mate Michael Caruso, the Darwin circuit holds a special place in his heart as he is a former race winner at the ‘Top End’, having claimed his first V8 Supercars career race win at Hidden Valley Raceway in 2009.
Todd Kelly is also a former winner at Hidden Valley. The Jack Daniel’s Racing driver has won there in both 2004 and 2005 and regards it as one of his favourite racing venues.
The Skycity Triple Crown will be held on June 14-16, with four practice sessions on Friday, followed by the return of the 60/60 Super Sprint format on Saturday. Two qualifying and two races will be run on Sunday.
Rick Kelly - #15 Jack Daniel's Racing Nissan Altima: "Darwin is a really exciting destination and you can't turn up there that weekend and not know we're in town and I can't wait to head up this year," Rick Kelly said.
"I'm not sure if I'm going to have the chance to stay over for a day or two, but certainly I've enjoyed it in the past, having a look around and doing a bit of Barra fishing, it's certainly a different place for us and one we quite enjoy.
"We've just come off the back of my most successful event this year in the Jack Daniel's Nissan in Texas, and we're really focused on trying to carry that momentum into the rest of the season.
"We've got a couple of runs on the board now and we have a lot of confidence with the setup of the car, which will really help us as we move forward.
"We know that Darwin has a very long straight with a slow corner leading onto it, so that part of the track is going to be tough for us, but a lot of the other parts should be quite good to us as well, especially with the slippery track surface.
"I've got mixed feeling heading into the weekend as far as where we're going to be, but the important thing for us is to carry the momentum that we've gained in Texas through the Darwin event, as we head towards the enduros."
James Moffat – #360 Norton 360 Nissan Altima: “Darwin is always a tough race because of the heat, both physically and on the cars,” says James Moffat.
“It’s always a great event to go to. The City of Darwin always gets behind the race in Hidden Valley. It’s a great track that is characterised by a very long front straight.
“Fortunately, we’re coming off a really hot race in Texas where no one anticipated that it would as hot as it was over there. Darwin shouldn’t be as much of a shock to the system.
“The races up there are tough because of the heat that you experience inside the car, but I’m looking forward to getting up there – It’s a similar track surface to what we had in Perth, and we had a pretty speedy Norton 360 Altima there.
“Tyre life and looking after the rear tyres is critical to having a good time in Darwin. Even though there’s a long straight there, we might be able to hold onto the tyres a bit better and we might be able to surprise some people with that.”
Michael Caruso – #36 Norton 360 Nissan Altima: “I’m very excited to head up north to Darwin. It holds a special spot in my heart,” said Michael Caruso.
“We know that the track is very hard on tyres, so it will be interesting to see how the regulations with the soft and the hard tyre combining over the weekend plays out. It will give us a chance to see how we can use strategy to get the most out of the car.
“At this stage of the development process of the Altimas, it’s hard to have an expectation for Darwin because from track to track, our cars are different speeds relative to the field.
“I have no doubt that we’re making improvements each event, but where that puts us, it’s going to be hard to judge.”
Todd Kelly - #7 Jack Daniel's Racing Nissan Altima: "I really love this event, not only the circuit itself, but Darwin in general, it's nice to get out of the dreary weather we have in Melbourne at this time of year and up in to some beautiful sunshine," Todd Kelly said.
"It's one of those events where, once the weekend is finished, you don't really want to come home and leave the place, so I love Darwin in general and the track has been quite good to me in the past.
"Over the years I've had some good results and some average ones, so hopefully we can continue with our improvements up the field with the Nissan Altimas and have another really good run.
"It's a track that has a lot of corners where it's critical that you've got a car that handles well, but then you've got the massive drag strip down the straight.
"It will be interesting, but hopefully we can build on where Rick was in Texas and have a really strong weekend."
2013 V8 Supercars Championship
1. Jamie Whincup, 1217
2. Craig Lowndes, 1075
3. Will Davison, 1004
4. Fabian Coulthard, 954
5. Jason Bright, 945
6. Shane Van Gisbergen, 907
7. Garth Tander, 888
8. Mark Winterbottom, 861
9. James Courtney, 825
10. Jonathon Webb, 768
12. Rick Kelly, 651
13. James Moffat, 638
22. Michael Caruso, 434
26. Todd Kelly, 303