Rick Kelly's Insights: New relationships and a promising start

Nissan Motorsport V8 Supercar driver Rick Kelly has joined Motorsport.com as an exclusive columnist. Here's the first of his weekly insights into life as a driver, team owner, and TV presenter.

First of all, it’s great to be a part of the Motorsport.com team!

It’s exciting that a global site is now focussing on what we are doing down here in Australia, and hopefully through this column I will be able to give you an insight into the world of V8 Supercars.

Getting the ball rolling, the start of 2015 has been a busy one here at Nissan Motorsport, especially on the personnel front. One of the most important relationships in the team is that between the driver and race engineer, so it has been quite exciting to team up with George Commins for the new season.

Returning to Australia after six years in Europe, George did the rounds in open wheel racing, including a stint as an engineer at Williams F1. Many moons ago he was also an engineer at Dick Johnson Racing and at Larkham Motorsport, so he’s no stranger to the V8 paddock, although in an era before our new generation cars.

Promising start

Kicking things off was the season opening V8 SuperTest at Sydney Motorsport Park, which went pretty well for us, as we set the fastest time in the first two sessions. It’s a track that suits our car; we tend to be strong relative to our competitors in high-speed, flowing corners, and obviously SMP has a lot of those.

It was good to show some form there, but importantly, it was a really solid couple of days working with George. We had a lot to go through; how we operate, how we talk about the behaviour of the car, how I approach my driving, and how George approaches tuning the car.

Considering the variable weather conditions, it was a bit of confidence boost heading into the season proper.

The racing begins

At the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide we started to implement the things that we had learned from testing, and more importantly continue to bond; it takes a long time to get the most out of each other when you have a new combination.

We had very strong practice pace in the Jack Daniel’s Nissan by topping the opening session, but we weren’t able to convert that in qualifying, which I guess again comes back to the inexperience in the relationship.

In the races we rebounded to register a couple of Top 10 results, and leave the event eighth in the standings.

At the Australian Grand Prix support races we again continued to develop our systems, and focus on qualifying. Because the category is as close as it is, it’s often hard to overtake, so there is an added emphasis on starting near the front of the field, and I think we managed to get more out of the car at Albert Park.

Looking at the timesheets in practice, there wasn’t a lot to write home about, because our tyres were incredibly old, which made the first run in qualifying tough because of the massive performance gain on new Dunlops.

So we went from the back of the field in practice, to just outside the Top 10 in qualifying, then we managed to sneak forward in those races to pick up four Top 10 results.

Survivor Symmons

One of the biggest challenges with our Nissan Altimas is to get the car to rotate in tight corners, and we are still slightly behind the competition on long straights.

So Symmons Plains is a tough event on us, because it has the tightest corner in the country that leads onto one of the longest straights in the championship, which is a bit of a double whammy!

Our aim is to get through tough rounds like Tasmania with as many points as we can, and then capitalise at the circuits which better suit our car.

One of the biggest challenges with our Nissan Altimas is to get the car to rotate in tight corners, and we are still slightly behind the competition on long straights.

Rick Kelly

 

Saying that, our aim is to turn those difficult events into ones where we go well at in the future, so we tried a lot of different settings in Tasmania to try an unlock a bit more speed in our weak areas, which should hopefully pay off in Perth at the start of May.

To remain ninth in the points after a couple of rounds is the best start to a year we’ve had with Nissan, but there is an awful lot of potential still be to unlocked.

Anyway, if you ever have anything that you would like me to cover in this column, feel free to drop me a line via my Facebook or Twitter pages.

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Rick Kelly , Dick Johnson
Teams Nissan Motorsports
Article type Commentary