Rick Kelly relishes the chance to drive in a non-championship V8 Supercar round this weekend in Albert Park, Melbourne as part of the Australian Grand Prix weekend – but the former champion and Bathurst winner says that the gloves come off when there aren’t any points at stake.
The four non-championship V8 supercars races at Albert Park this weekend are the highlight of a packed Australian Grand Prix support calendar. Racing for quite a lot of money and an even larger amount of pride, the V8’s roaring around the lake are always a spectacle to behold.
Rick Kelly’s Jack Daniel’s Holden VE Commodore racked up consecutive top-10 finishes in the first two races and looked on course to go even higher in the third before bad luck timing a pitstop as a red flag came out dropped Rick right to the back. Tomorrow he has a lot of work to do in the final race starting 22nd on the grid. But first it’s time for a chat.
RB: Rick, how do you approach a non-championship race? Is it different to a normal weekend?
RK: Yeah – normally the non-championship round at the grand prix ends up in a little bit more carnage! But there’s a practical element too. Particularly for our Jack Daniel’s Racing team as this year we’ve got a lot of new engineering staff in our business and this event comes at a fantastic time. We’ve just had the first round of our championship at Clipsal [Adelaide] and we got off to a steady start with a good points base there. The grand prix is a great chance to learn a bit more and be a little bit bolder than we normally would. But this weekend we haven’t really got any major developments on the car, we’re just trying to go out and get a solid result under our belt. If we can get a good, solid result this weekend it’s just one of those things that builds a little bit more confidence in each other and we can head to the next round and attack.
RB: So, it’s racing with fewer limits?
RK: Ah well it has its dangers if you’re not careful! As I say, traditionally this is a round where – because it is non-championship – you can try a few more development items. For that reason you can really come unstuck. You try a few things, it doesn’t go so well, you end up in the middle of the field, you get crashed into and you lose all your confidence and you go into the next round a little bit lost as to where you are. So for us here everything is pretty stable in the team and in the car, development-wise.
RB: Do you enjoy racing on a street circuit like this?
RK: A driver always loves the tracks he does well at! In fact I like most of the tracks we go to in the V8 Supercars Championship. Every driver in V8s says he loves Bathurst but for me I enjoy street courses because they’re very hard and fast and you have to muscle the car around the track, which is great fun. And sometimes at the street circuit, when the car is not ideal setup-wise, you can still get a lap out of it, fire it over a few kerbs and up against a few walls and make it fast. So, I do enjoy the street circuits and it has favoured our cars – but I really enjoy Phillip Island too. It’s a really fast, flowing track – and we’ve had pretty solid results there too.
RB: Every year the Australian Grand Prix weekend in Melbourne comes in for a bit of stick from those opposed to the Victorian taxpayer having to foot the bill. As one of those taxpayers, what do you think?
RK: Hey look, at the end of the day I think it’s a great thing. It costs us a little bit of money but it’s such a huge event for us and it really showcases Melbourne to the world. It’s been a massive part of my life growing up, y’know the sound and the smell of Formula One and the fact it’s the biggest and most expensive racing form in the world is quite spectacular – and for that reason it’s quite important that we have it as part of our year over here.
RB: So, you won’t be camped outside City Hall…
RK: There’s always a little bit of backlash that it costs money to have the grand prix here, but what doesn’t? When you pitch for the soccer World Cup or the Commonwealth Games, stuff like that takes a lot of state resources and money, and to be honest I think it’s money well spent: it builds the economy. You can’t really only look at this as the four days of the event: it brings people in for weeks. International businesses come to the city, spectators come from all over the world and it opens their eyes up to what Australia and Melbourne have to offer. For me it’s a fantastic event and it’s never been a question in my mind that it’s something we should do.