V8 Supercars star Rick Kelly says the Bathurst 12 Hour will help overseas drivers pick up drives for the Bathurst 1000.
Traditionally the Bathurst 1000 has been tough going for overseas drivers, a combination of the daunting Mount Panorama circuit and the unique V8 hardware making it difficult for even the most talented imports to find their feet.
According to Rick Kelly, half of that problem is being solved by the Bathurst 12 Hour, which gives overseas drivers the opportunity to gain valuable experience on The Mountain.
And that makes them more attractive to team owners as a prospect for the 1000.
“You look at how strong a lot of the really great teams are from overseas, and drivers from overseas, that come here and get the track nailed quickly,” he said. “A few years ago, in our V8 Supercars, that wasn’t really the case.
“I think [the 12 Hour] really opens up our eyes to drivers from overseas for the 1000 here in October, because the quality of drivers is outstanding, and now they have experience on our track.
“They are assets for us in the future.”
One international that caught Kelly’s eye was his Nissan teammate Katsumasa Chiyo. The 2006 V8 Supercars champion said he spent the entire weekend using Chiyo’s data as a benchmark, and that his final stint was something truly special.
“The pace at the start of the race, when the track was nice and cool, was very strong, and I think everyone was just sorting of getting settled in,” explained Kelly.
“Through the mid part of the day, as always, the track got quite greasy – and at the end there [Chiyo’s] pace was quicker than I got out of the car in qualifying, which shows the car’s capability, and especially Chiyo’s capability.
“I don’t think there would have been another hundredth in the car compared to what he got out of it there. I think we need to check the mirrors for some paint, he was that close in a few places which is really impressive.
“The high-risk places around here Chiyo has nailed, and same with the low-risk. He’s got the track under control.”