Insights with Rick Kelly: Sticky Business

This week, V8 Supercars driver and Motorsport.com columnist Rick Kelly talks about his love of stickers. Yep, stickers.

The subject of this week’s column is our race car liveries.

Stick with me on this one; it’s actually pretty interesting, and a real passion of mine.

Back when we started Kelly Racing in 2009, I had to put the business case together for outsourcing our graphics and stickering, or do it in-house.

At that stage it worked out to be a fair bit cheaper to do the work ourselves, and it has developed to be an area we are really quite savvy.

Only a handful of years ago, changing liveries wasn’t something that happened very often. Now, livery changes in between rounds, and even like we did last year overnight at Townsville last year for Jack Daniel’s 300th race, is becoming a common occurrence.

That particular job was huge. After the JD cars were prepped for the Sunday 200 kilometre race, six guys secretly stripped the decals off both cars, and reapplied all new colours by sunrise.

 

Overall this year, with the different sponsorship arrangements in place, between the four cars we’ve had 14 different livery combinations, if you include the pre-season V8 SuperTest.

We want our cars to look fantastic on the track, and from that point of view, the sticker and signage business here internally at Nissan Motorsport has grown into a business within a business that does anywhere up to $300,000 worth of work a year.

To give you an example, to wrap a V8 Supercar B-double truck, it takes $25,000 worth of wrapping. It’s expensive, so that’s why we do it in-house. It also allows us to control the quality and prioritise jobs to get things done quickly.

Sparkling in the sun

I personally take a great pride in the appearance of the cars, and if you take a look at my 2015 Jack Daniel’s Nissan, it’s something that I’m proud to walk up to and hop into every single time.

This year we have applied brushed black aluminium vinyl onto the sides of the car, with highlights that are in chrome. We have used a lot of specialty vinyl that I think looks fantastic in different light on the TV, but it’s not until you really walk up to it and have a good look at it that you realise how we’ve done it.

In combining the vinyl together with some painted aspects through the middle of the car, we worked closely with our friends at Graphic Art Mart and PPG to get things just right.

Although Jack Daniel’s has always run with a black and white theme, there have been different ways of achieving the look. In the past we have even printed the brand logos onto vinyl, and wrapped the cars from there.

Another advantage of the modern way of presenting cars is that with minor scrapes and bumps on race weekend, you can simply apply new vinyl over the top of the problem areas, and you are good to go again.

Perfecting the craft

You really want all of the brands on the car to be represented very well, so we’ll develop different graphic mock ups to show to a sponsor, and then we’ll then put the stickers on the car and take some photos for further review.

After the races we evaluate it again from the TV footage, and slightly modify the branding over time as required.

One particular area that we pay attention to is the branding on the dash and internally around the cabin, as well as around the ‘hamburger’ camera on the roof. With all of the cars in 2015 carrying TV cameras, these present a great opportunity to expand options for sponsors.

So there’s a lot that goes on from a branding standpoint, and it’s not just the race cars. We brand all of the pit walling, the race transporters, the catering areas, the merchandise area, and obviously some external work with our team partners, as well as work around the head office as well.

It’s all a reasonably new industry that continues to develop very quickly, as far as the products that you can use. Wrapping a whole car in chrome is now a possibility, whereas not long ago it was just a dream.

Getting involved

From time to time, especially when things get busy at the start of the season, I don’t mind getting stuck in and involved.

Our sticker guy Mitch Croke does a fantastic job, and generally doesn’t need my help. At the start of the year I had the chance to help him out, and I wrapped half of the Nissan GT-R that was on display at the Clipsal 500.

I have the ability to wrap a car, but probably not as well as what Mitch can do; he is very good, very qualified and efficient.

It is a lot of fun, to turn up to the car, unroll one big sticker of vinyl, and totally change the colour of it in just a few hours.

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