Nissan Motorsport has continued its rise to the front of the V8 Supercars field with its first ever top 10 results in the V8 Supercars Championship.
In its return year to top-level Australian Touring Car racing, Nissan Altima driver Rick Kelly (Jack Daniel's) eclipsed his Clipsal 500 best of 11th with seventh place in Race 7 of the championship at Pukekohe Park today.
Rick Kelly's seventh place added to his 12th place finish in Race 6, which he held earlier today. His strong results move him up to 14th in the championship battle.
Today's top 10 places adds to the top 10 results achieved in the non-championship event at the Australian Grand Prix last month.
The second Norton 360 Nissan of Michael Caruso also showed encouraging speed. The Sydney-born driver finished 13th in Race 6 (the first race of the day) and was set for a top 10 finish in the second race, only to suffer from excessive rear tyre wear due to a bent boot lid.
There wasn't as much joy for Jack Daniel's Nissan driver Todd Kelly, although he did improve on his qualifying positions in both races. The eldest Kelly brother finished 17th and 18th in the two races.
The V8 Supercars will be back on track tomorrow in Pukekohe for two qualifying sessions, plus Races 8 and 9 of the championship.
Rick Kelly – #15 Jack Daniel's Nissan Altima (Race 6 qualifying: 15 / Race 6 result: 12 / Race 7 qualifying: 12 / Race 7 result: 7 Championship position: 14th): "I'm really excited about scoring a top 10 result today, we're really hitting our straps with the car set up now and there are not too many corners where others are getting an advantage on us, it's only really one," Rick Kelly said.
"We know where our weaknesses are and we're really starting to build on our strengths, which is very exciting.
"To jump into our first top 10 is great and all the way up to seventh. We're really focused on capitalising on other mistakes and aggression at the moment, but we did find time in that last race compared to others and that's what we're after.
"Right now we're on a bit of a high and we just really need to back up with some solid results tomorrow to leave Pukekohe in style."
James Moffat – #360 Norton 360 Nissan Altima (Race 6 qualifying: 24 / Race 6 result: 22 / Race 7 qualifying: 17 / Race 7 result: 9 Championship position: 15th): "We made a couple of changes from the first race where the car didn't look after its tyres. We sharpened it up and we had a pretty racy Nissan Altima on our hands," said Moffat.
"We were able to pass some cars, and we benefited from some carnage out there.
"We need to focus on qualifying well tomorrow. If we can keep a similar race car, there's no reason why we can't run inside the top 10.
"It's an encouraging day and we've been working very hard on our weaknesses. It's great to have two Nissans in the top 10 – now we've got to get some more up there."
Michael Caruso – #36 Norton 360 Nissan Altima (Race 6 qualifying: 17 / Race 6 result: 13 / Race 7 qualifying: 16 / Race 7 result: 12 / Championship position: 24th): "It was a bit frustrating. We were looking good for a top 10 but four laps from the end, the car speed feel off the cliff," said Caruso.
"It was great to see the other Nissans so strong and I think we can really improve from here.
"This track suits us more, similar to the Grand Prix. The layout just suits these cars. That will be an ongoing trend through the year."
Todd Kelly – #7 Jack Daniel's Nissan Altima (Race 6 qualifying: 19 / Race 6 result: 17 / Race 7 qualifying: 24 / Race 7 result: 18 / Championship position: 28th): "It's a shame we ended up having a real average run this morning in qualifying. The car wasn't real flash in that first race and we made a few changes for the last race and the car was quite a bit better," Todd Kelly said.
"Where I qualified the car, it was just too far back, the way the car is working at the moment unfortunately our strengths aren't in the areas that enable us to pass, so once you qualify back, you can only ever get one or two spots around a place like this.
"Every time I got clear air in front I went half a second a lap quicker, so I just need to get qualifying right tomorrow and hopefully we can have a much better day."