Insights with Rick Kelly: Learning to fly

According to V8 Supercars star Rick Kelly, the concrete canyon at Sydney Olympic Park places emphasis on some unique elements – including learning how to fly.

Generally on the tracks that we visit in V8 Supercars, we are very focussed on getting the tyres to grip the surface as best as we absolutely can.

We’ve come from Phillip Island, where it’s a very smooth and grippy surface, and you are very much focussed on tuning the car to handle perfectly on the different corners around the track. In practice we make very small precise changes to arrive at a final package.

The Sydney Olympic Park track is a very different one. We’re setting the car up to go over probably 10 or 15 different surfaces around the circuit, but more importantly, we are dealing with some very aggressive kerb profiles.

Basically we are setting your car up to have the perfect amount of hang time in the air.

What I mean by that is that you have to hit those kerbs at an angle, and have the car sit in the air for a certain amount of time so that you can land back down on the kerb, almost like a landing ramp.

It’s basically a motocross style set-up rather than a racecar set-up.

It’s a big departure from what we are normally looking for, and it’s a real challenge.

The camber and the general bumpy nature of it being a street circuit also make it tough. From the sidelines looking on, a quick car is one that has a driver who is prepared to take a lot of risks and rub the walls from time-to-time, really hustle the car around the track, all while being nice and smooth.

From an engineering point of view, it’s about having a car that takes off and lands nicely on the kerbs.

Race Pace

When it comes to the 250km long race on Sunday, the real challenge is having a car that can stand up to the punishment of pounding over the kerbs all afternoon long. From the driver’s seat, there is absolutely no room for error.

At some tracks you can brake half a metre or a metre deeper than normal and you can generally recover it. However in Sydney, if you go in deep, you tend to get your outside tyres onto the marbles, and it fires you into the wall rather quickly.

It’s a very different track from a survival point of view, and it becomes critical to be able to concentrate for an extended period of time.

Then you can also add in the extra element of the weather… Back in 2012, the temperatures on the Sunday were in the high 30s, a lot of drivers lost concentration, made silly mistakes, and crashed out. It really is one of the top two or three races that place an emphasis on driver fitness.

Speaking of weather, the rain last year really threw a spanner in the works, especially in our hopes of advancing up the championship standings! Having two consecutive races cut short due to rain is pretty unheard of.

Points Pay Day

Holding the final event of the year on such a difficult layout really is a challenge for everyone, especially those looking to gain maximum points.

We’re currently at 11th in the standings, but if we get our act together over the weekend we can realistically bring home a ninth in the final tally, which would be a great reward for the team and a perfect way to send off Jack Daniel’s.

As always, it’s hard to predict how these things are going to pan out. Safety cars are going to be a guaranteed feature of the racing, which brings strategy into question.

We were pretty quick on the streets of Adelaide to start the year, and claimed a podium on the Gold Coast, but all of that doesn’t really count for anything now! I just can’t wait to end the year on a high.

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About this article
Series Supercars
Event Homebush
Track Sydney Olympic Park
Drivers Rick Kelly
Article type Analysis