Rick Kelly has had a remarkable V8 Supercars so far, but it didn’t get off to the best of starts at Queensland Raceway back in 2001.
It’s somewhat surprising I was ever able to make a career out of driving V8 Supercars, at least if you go by what the record books say was my debut race.
I would definitely argue that the record books deserve a rewrite…
Rewind back to the Queensland 500 at Queensland Raceway in 2001, and I was down to make my first ever main game start alongside Nathan Pretty in the #51 Kmart Commodore.
That weekend my brother Todd was sharing driving duties with Greg Murphy in the #15 car, and they went on to finish third in a controversial rain-shortened race, which ended with the winner Paul Radisich bogged in the Turn 1 sand trap.
I managed to cut some practice laps, Nathan qualified the car 16th out of 34 starters, and I was set to drive the first stint in the race. At least that was the plan.
After successfully navigating to the grid, the car suffered a monumental driveshaft failure at the start of the warm-up lap. Apparently one warm-up lap is good enough for the record books!
My lasting memory of the event, the one thing that I think I did well, was that I was able to jump over the rather tall pit wall in one bound to get off the race track.
I really didn’t get much time in the car at all that weekend, but I was able to do some laps at Bathurst, before making my solo debut in the #255 car at the Sandown sprint round at the end of the season.
On Queensland Raceway
While the design would probably never be a favourite amongst drivers, QR does have its charms.
The layout is simple, but the long straights combined with a wide track width and tight corners can often result in good racing.
If you are good enough, it’s the sort of place where you can make up positions.
From the spectator’s perspective, you can see all parts of the track from any vantage point, so there really aren’t any bad seats to be found.
It’s a tough place to get right from a driving standpoint. Because it is so straightforward, you have to be incredibly precise to get the most out your lap times.
The other trick is that car setup around QR is a real compromise.
Of the six corners, there are two fast right-handers, two are tight right handers, and two are left-handers. To make a car work well on one set of those corners, you often have to make sacrifices on the others.
If you can find that compromise, it’s your golden ticket to having a good weekend.
Nice Job, Nissan
Our 2014 hit-out at QR was a bit of turning point for Nissan Motorsport.
Starting on the Saturday, Michael Caruso qualified second, and was looking for the win until a late race coming together with Scott McLaughlin.
That particular race saw my Jack Daniel’s Nissan score its best result to date at QR, with a fifth place result after a fairly large late race battle with Mark Winterbottom.
The good times continued on Sunday, with James Moffat scoring our very first pole position for Nissan. He was also going for a podium late in the race before settling for fifth.
While the past results give us hope, the category is so competitive and develops so quickly, you can never really predict what is going unfold on any given weekend.
After our recent podiums at Winton and Darwin, we were very positive heading to Townsville, but when we missed out on one of the Friday practice sessions, it really put us behind the eight ball for the rest of the event.
A pair of 16th place results from that meeting is nothing to write home about, but we have thoroughly reviewed all of the data, and I’m confident if we returned there this weekend for another crack, we would put in a much better performance.
The thing I’m really looking forward is the constant scheduling from here until the end of the season, with races every two or three weeks.
It’s good for the fans, and for us drivers, it’s great to be regularly behind the wheel.