Insights with Rick Kelly: How close is too close?

The racing in V8 Supercars has never been closer, and columnist Rick Kelly says it has changed the way a driver goes about the sport in the modern era.

It’s interesting to have been in V8 Supercars since 2002, just to see how the sport has progressed over the years.

You get nostalgic sometimes and look back at the ‘good old days’, but really, how good were they?

There have been no bigger changes in my time in the sport than what has happened in the past four years with the introduction of the New Generation rules, which saw new manufacturers such as Nissan enter the sport.

It’s been getting closer and closer, but it is literally that close right now, if you are on the wrong side of a tenth of a second in qualifying, you could be 10 spots further back on the grid.

Only a few years ago if you were a tenth back, you might have only dropped a spot or two.

What does that mean?

For sure, the category is closer, but in turn it means that you have to alter the way you attack a race weekend to make sure that you aren’t on the wrong side of that tenth of a second.

It means you have to limit the number of risky changes you make to the car during Friday practice, because you just can’t afford to test out radical new parts or ideas and lose half a session to see if a development item is better or worse.

Making wholesale changes and taking a step backwards isn’t worth the risk of losing that time, it will put you behind the eight ball, and you won’t have the time to catch it back up over an event.

You do have to change the way you do things to make sure that you position yourself as well as possible, even the way you approach the use of green tyres, and plan for your practice sessions.

In particular, making changes for qualifying sessions is now a major gamble.

You have to be confident in the car, and almost have to have the same set-up for practice and qualifying, just so that you know what to expect. You just cannot afford to leave anything out there.

Quality runs deep

You see it now, when you line up on the grid after a tough qualifying session, you’re sitting back in 15th or 16th.

And you have a look around; it’s not as if you are surrounded by guys who haven’t seen any success before.

You might have Garth Tander alongside you, and Craig Lowndes a couple of rows behind you, nobody is exempt from how competitive the sport it.

The Prodrive guys are doing a really good job right now, but basically everyone else is hit or miss, it’s just the shift of power in the whole sport.

I used to be called Mr Consistency. I always used to be able to maintain a pretty consistent position, and find myself somewhere in the Top 10.

Even with having focussed on that a lot in my career, like everyone, I haven’t been able to keep that level of consistency in 2015… because it is just that competitive.

Malaysian Adventure

There was one very keen viewer of the demonstration races in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend from the UK.

From my vantage at GT Academy base came at Silverstone, it looked like a great weekend for the Jack Daniel’s Nissan with Todd at the wheel, with a pole and a win.

However, I don’t quite recall ever giving him permission to cut loose with some celebratory burnouts!

By all reports, it looks like a great city for a street circuit, and a pretty wild layout.

I can’t wait to tear it up in 2016.

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Rick Kelly
Teams Nissan Motorsport
Article type Analysis