KELLY BROTHERS DETERMINED TO BOUNCE BACK ON THE GOLD COAST
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Todd and Rick Kelly are determined to put their below-par performance at Bathurst behind them at the Armor All Gold Coast 600 on the streets of Surfers Paradise this weekend.
The Jack Daniel's Holden Commodores showed great speed on the Gold Coast last year, where Rick Kelly was in contention for victory until a controversial black flag for a minor fuel leak.
Now entering the revamped Gold Coast event on a shortened version of the Surfers Paradise street circuit, the Kelly brothers are aiming to score the first podium of the season for Jack Daniel's Racing.
As part of the new event format, each team will run adopt an international driver for this weekend's two 300-kilometre races, with New Zealand IndyCar star Scott Dixon to slot into the #7 Jack Daniel's Commodore alongside Todd Kelly.
Dixon and Todd Kelly were rivals in their days racing Formula Holden in 1998, before the Kiwi star moved to the United States to win two IndyCar titles and the 2008 Indianapolis 500.
Owen Kelly will team up with Rick Kelly in the #15 Jack Daniel's Holden Commodore, keeping that driver line-up together for the third consecutive endurance event. The duo scored fourth place in Phillip Island in September.
JACK DANIEL'S RACING QUOTEBOARD:
RICK KELLY - #15 Jack Daniel's Holden Commodore
QUESTION: At the Gold Coast event last year you had the pace to win and your Jack Daniel's Commodore was very fast. But this year we have a different format, different track, different drivers, so does anything from last year translate to this weekend?
"This event will definitely be a different kettle of fish," said Rick Kelly.
"Surfers is the sort of track where we have had good car speed, but the introduction of co-drivers moves the goal posts so it will be a different event for us.
"We have two races under our belt with Owen in our #15 Jack Daniel's Commodore. We both work well sharing the car and we are both working hard to ensure we have a fast car for the Gold Coast.
"With the track being shortened it throws another curve ball at us. This used to be a track where you would have to sacrifice one half of the track to be fast on the other in terms of car set-up, so it was always a bit of a compromise.
"But by taking almost half the circuit away, the set-up we had last year may not be what we need this year. We've got to think on our feet with the set-up and work very hard on our preparation both walking the track on Thursday and practice on Friday to give the car what we think it needs to go well on this new layout.
"We've put Bathurst behind us pretty quickly. We spent a lot of time last week on the issues we had there to make sure we have fixed them. Now we want to get back to the form we showed at Phillip Island when we had great pace and finished fourth.
"Last year we had the speed to win so I hope that is the same this year, but of course this is now a completely different event."
QUESTION: The endurance events at Phillip Island and Bathurst ended up being long sprint races with very few Safety Cars and not many cars falling out through attrition. Do you think the Gold Coast will be different to those two races?
"Looking at Bathurst you would have expected that there would have been a lot of good drivers taken out of that race through mistakes made by their less experienced co-drivers, but that was not the case at all.
"All the co-drivers did a really good job at Bathurst and there was not much action throughout the race from that point of view.
"With almost all the international drivers not doing Phillip Island and Bathurst and to get some experience in these cars before they get to the Gold Coast, I think this track will claim a lot of cars.
"I may be proven wrong again but it certainly seems to be the consensus that there will be a lot of carnage. The strategy always changes when there are a lot of Safety Cars, so to win you will have to be able to adapt and think on your feet better than anyone else."
OWEN KELLY - #15 Jack Daniel's Holden Commodore
"The Gold Coast race is going to be a tough endurance event because the track is so unforgiving," said Owen Kelly.
"The whole team has worked very hard to put Bathurst behind us and in terms of Rick and I, we are definitely keen to bring out the pace we had onboard at Phillip Island.
"It should be a great event, but for the drivers and crews it will be very tough, so there will not be much chance to soak up the sun.
"The concrete doesn't give you any second chances around here so you need to be very smart about it and keep it clean. There's no point having a fast, smashed up race car.
"Bringing it home straight, keeping up a solid pace and nailing the strategy are all going to be very important this weekend."
TODD KELLY - #7 Jack Daniel's Holden Commodore
QUESTION: The shortened version of the Surfers Paradise track still keeps a lot of its character with places like the first Chicane and the Narrowneck Beach Chicane, but how does this new layout changes things for the drivers?
"It will be weird going through the first chicane now," said Todd Kelly.
"That section of the track used to flow really well from one chicane to the next.
"It will be a strange thing to get your head around doing a full U-Turn in the spot where the second chicane used to be.
"You would not want to get a bit of a brain freeze after spending an hour in the car and forget that they have changed the track because you would fire down the escape road pretty quick down into the tyre bundles.
"It adds another challenge to the track, trying to get the car around such a tight corner and then accelerate hard out of it down the back straight.
"It's going to be very interesting to get there and work to get our heads around this new hairpin."
QUESTION: Two of the biggest braking areas on the track are now removed from the circuit with the new layout. Will this layout be any easier on the brakes?
"You have taken two really big stops out of the circuit but you have also gained a little bit more aggro on the brakes into the beach chicane there with the extra speed we carry into there. That is a critical area because you come out of that chicane and the left-hander turning away from the beach is a place where you need to be extremely accurate.
"If you lock the rears into that corner and go in a little too quick it will understeer and with the nature of the track and how the camber falls away on the exit, you will go straight into the fence there. I think I might have actually done that last year and I know Rick has done that in the past in qualifying by sticking it into the fence there.
"That corner after the beach chicane at the end of the straight will definitely cause a lot of people grief because you will cane the brakes into the beach chicane.
"We'll be going into there in top gear now. Then on the second application of the brakes after such a big stop at the Beach Chicane it will mean the brakes are still recovering and it will cause issues with the rear brakes locking.
"It will be an interesting corner. It is also one of the best passing opportunities on the track as well, so if you dive in on someone at that corner it's a hell of a challenge just trying to get around the corner."
QUESTION: Will the new hairpin corner be good passing opportunity?
"It's hard to know. Looking at it on the plan and actually getting there and walking the track to have a good look in real life are two different things.
"You could muscle your way through on someone at that new hairpin, but you will have to be right in alongside someone to pull it off. It's usually easier to pull of a pass on a 90 degree corner like we used to have on the longer circuit, because on a hairpin if you dive down the inside, with the tighter turning angle, it is easy to push wide on the exit and then have the car you just passed fire back past with a better exit.
"You need to be extremely committed to get through there and you might even need to 'make' a bit of room to have a crack at squeezing through on someone."
QUESTION: The Narrowneck Beach Chicane is one of the most challenging and spectacular corners of the entire season with the fast speeds, the multiple changes of direction and the way the camber of the road changes. Now you will be approaching it in top gear and at over 250km/h. Does that make it even more treacherous and challenging?
"I think we will still have to enter that corner at the same speed as before, but you will arrive at least 20km/h quicker. You will have to go through the first part of the chicane at the same speed as last year, but it will mean that we are working the brakes a lot harder.
"If you get that wrong you will hit the fence very hard, a little harder even than before, but it's still a really spectacular part of the track and the cars always look really great going through there so fast and changing direction."
QUESTION: How tough will it be for the international drivers at this event?
"The whole event is going to be extremely difficult for those guys. They are all the best drivers in the world, so they are going to do as good a job as you could possibly expect.
"To be fair to them, at a place like the Gold Coast, to be fast you need to know your car very well because there is no room for error. There is no room for going in a little bit too hot and getting away with it. Everything has to be perfect so you need to know your car like the back of your hand.
"You need to know how sharp the car is and how quickly it reacts because you need to go right, left, right, left and then end us skimming against a concrete wall. If any one of those turning maneuvers is not right or the car has not recovered quickly enough, the next corner will get a whole lot worse and you will probably end up in the fence.
"So you will need to look out for things like that back corner after the beach chicane, where the brakes will gradually fade over the course of the race so you need to be aware of that so that you do not lock the rears and spear off head first into the wall. After giving the brakes a fair bit of curry into the beach chicane you will need to be aware that heading into the next corner they may have not recovered and that's something that most of these guys are probably not used to in their own cars.
"To push the car to the extent where you are rubbing the door mirrors against the walls on the exit of the corner, and bouncing the car off kerbs to gain time, you need to know the car very well. There is not a lot of difference between barely rubbing a wall and smacking the diff out of the back of the car.
"So these guys are going to have to get their head around the cars pretty quickly to survive the weekend, that's for sure."
QUESTION: Given that it will be so tough, will you as a full-time driver be working hard with the Jack Daniel's Racing international driver Scott Dixon on some of the traps they may come across, like the brake fade, the camber changes, etc
"There is no substitute for explaining as much as you possibly can about what the car could do or feel like, what happens over a race distance, how the car changes over a race distance, how the car changes over a lap with the brakes and tyres, explaining as much as that as possible will be a huge advantage.
"I know that if I was going to jump in an IndyCar at this track I would want to ask him questions for three days straight on what happens here or there, does it snap sideways over that kind of a bump, do you need to be careful in certain situations, so that will be a huge part of it.
"At the end of the day they've got to go out and hook straight into one of the hardest tracks we go to so they will need as much help as they can get.
"At the same time, we have top calibre guys out here. Especially Dixon, hopefully he can teach me a couple of things as well."
QUESTION: You mentioned when Scott came out here for a seat fitting and to the meet the team that you think that you have the best international of the bunch. Are you pleased to see how enthusiastic and determined he is?
"It's been massive for the team to have these calibre of guys involved. The way he goes about analysing our data and his general attitude is just awesome. There is absolutely no ego.
"He processes and analyses everything and really does everything text book as a race car driver should.
"It's easy for us as drivers to get too comfortable in the same environment for so long and sort of fall out of sync a little bit, so it's good have a little refresher on not complaining about the car and trying to do things differently and just drive around it.
"It's good to have a different approach in there with us and he has certainly got all that side of it down pat."
QUESTION: We just saw a 1000km race with only four Safety Cars. Do you think there will only be four Safety Cars at Surfers?
"There will be that many in the first five minutes (laughs)."
QUESTION: So in your planning for this event do you expect there to be a lot of carnage and Safety Cars periods, and also, do you watch out for crashes ahead around the blind corners?
"You will need spotters and everything you can here, it's going to be probably the most different race we've ever done. It will be impossible to come up with a strategy and be able to stick to it with so much potential for Safety Cars. It's also a really weird one because of the potential spread in drivers and lap times and the potential for crashes will be huge.
"You don't have to be very far behind the leader to go a lap down on a pit stop. The way the cars are going to get spread out and mixed up there is a good chance that by the end of one of the race there could be cars that are reasonably competitive but may end up two or three laps down.
"If there is a Safety Car and you have just gone a lap down and it gets bunched up it could go either way for you.
"We'll have plenty of coffee to keep our minds ticking over as the races goes on, that's for sure.
"It will be like nothing we have ever competed in before."
SCOTT DIXON - #7 Jack Daniel's Holden Commodore
"For me this Gold Coast event feels like coming home and doing something I'm used to," said Scott Dixon.
"I think the best word to describe this event is 'interesting'. Most of the internationals have never raced a V8 Supercar, including me.
"I have raced at Surfers in an IndyCar many times so at least I'll know my way around. It's going to be a fantastic race and something that everybody is going to love to watch.
"It's always nice to see the competition, the friendly competition I like to call it, between the Aussies and the Kiwis.
"I'm a bit of a mix myself, born in Brisbane but obviously traveling on a Kiwi passport. For me, I've got lots of friends here with Jason Richards, Fabian Coulthard and obviously Greg Murphy.
"It's been a long time since I've raced with them so hopefully we can fly the flag for New Zealand.
"For us international drivers I think we all want to try and come here and do a good job and help the team you are racing with because it's part of the championship.
"So there is a lot of pressure and it's something that you've got to take seriously."
-source: kelly racing