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Kelly Racing: Pony up

After seven seasons with the Nissan Altima, Kelly Racing switches to Ford Mustangs and downsizes to two cars in 2020. Co-owner and driver Rick Kelly reflects on the team’s time with Nissan and what awaits with Ford in SupercarXtra Magazine issue #114. 

12 December 2019

CLICK HERE for more information on issue #114.

The news in early-2012 was exactly what Supercars needed. The Car of the Future program had ticked one of the boxes it needed to tick with a new manufacturer joining the category, Nissan with Kelly Racing.
As the pioneers in this exercise, Todd and Rick Kelly had taken on a massive venture and a giant step into the unknown from which others would benefit, namely Erebus Motorsport with AMG Mercedes-Benz and Garry Rogers Motorsport with Volvo.

There was talk of how much money Nissan had dropped just to get the engine close to that of the established rivals, and there was complexity getting aero parity right. The Altima had to conform to all the measurements. Its steeply raked front windscreen and tailgate meant it was slippery and a very different beast to the Commodore and Falcon of the time. It was a challenge, and now it is ending after seven years.

The Kellys made a team that builds and develops, and only one manufacturer remaining was going to allow that to happen, while acknowledging that the seven-year-old build and development program for the Nissan has clearly left it trailing behind two Holden evolutions and one significant evolution from Ford in the switch from Falcon to Mustang.

“For us, it’s just really exciting” Rick Kelly says from his Braeside base. 

“Obviously, we’ve been in the Nissan program for a long time and the cars that are racing in Supercars now are quite different in specification to what we started with. The Nissan that we’ve got and that we race was built to the rules of the times.

“So having a common car and all the bits and pieces that go along with it is going to be different and a new challenge for us. To get into something that’s I guess a little bit more current than what we’re in now is something we are really looking forward to.”

Given brother Todd’s love of the Chevrolet badge, the switch to Ford was a little bit of a surprise. The brothers knew they needed to leave the Nissan behind, and in reality they started the assessment for moving forwards from the minute Nissan pulled out, even if they have run without factory support.

New manufacturers were courted, but none of the dates got past first base, and that meant it was either Ford or Holden. Emotion was left on the table and a proper analysis was set in train.

“Firstly, Ford has been amazing with the transition and the interest they showed in having Kelly Racing as part of their racing family” says Kelly.

“That for us is a very big thing, having the support of Ford and Ford Performance.

Kelly Racing wanted to use its manufacturing expertise to build its new cars and Holden wasn’t going to allow that, though Ford would.

“Obviously in Kelly Racing we’ve always had a platform where we have great capabilities on the engineering and production side of things as well” says Kelly.

“We know with shifting to Holden you have to buy a lot of your equipment from a certain team, and with Ford it’s not that way. You have the ability to buy things if you need them or make a lot yourself. And that suits our platform. It allows us to keep our departments going.

“Also, the Mustang has some proven track history already. It’s a very exciting performance car that is very appealing to us and the fan base as well. So, there’s several reasons behind it.”

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