BRAESIDE, Victoria, Australia — Team Preview by Race Chaser Online V8 Supercars Correspondent James Pike — Robert Cianflone/Getty Images AsiaPac photo —
Welcome back to Race Chaser Online’s Preview of the 2015 V8 Supercars Championship! We continue our run through the field with a team looking to make a big jump in 2015 with additional factory support across all four teams, Nissan Motorsport’s Jack Daniel’s Racing arm with the brothers Kelly.
Nissan Motorsport — Jack Daniel’s Racing
#7 – Todd Kelly, Nissan GT Academy Nissan Altima
#15 – Rick Kelly, Jack Daniel’s Nissan Altima
2014 TEAM POINTS FINISH: 8th
2014 HIGHLIGHT MOMENT: The four fifth-place finishes from the Kelly Brothers at Adelaide, Queensland Raceway, Phillip Island, and Homebush
Since they made the jump from Holden to Nissan for the 2013 season, not much has changed in terms of the Kelly brothers’ competitiveness week in and week out. From that perspective, the move to Nissan has to be considered somewhat disappointing.
To that end, the 2014 season was relatively the same compared to 2013. In two seasons under the Nissan banner, neither Todd nor Rick Kelly have managed to claim a podium in the V8 Supercars Championship, and their best finishes combined last season were a quartet of fifth-place finishes. That being said, Rick did manage to finish in the top 10 in six of the final nine races of the season — there was certainly a “swoon” of sorts in the final part of his 2014 campaign.
The fact remains, however, that the Kelly brothers have not been particularly quick as of recent years.
One of the most significant issues for this team, if not the most significant issue for this team, has been a high drag coefficient from their rear wing. The Nissans have run the past two campaigns with a center-mounted “T-style” rear wing design. Compared to the opposing end-mounted rear wing design, the latter is far more aerodynamically efficient and is the one used by just about every team in the championship. Off of rear wing design alone, the Kelly brothers have given up full seconds on some of the longer straightaways in the Championship, just because of the extra drag it created on their cars at high speeds.
The rear wing problem has been one the Kelly brothers have known about for a while — it was just a matter of finding the time to redesign it and fix it in a proper manner. Not surprisingly, they spent a large portion of the off-season working on an “aerodynamic re-homologation” of their Altimas in December and January, with a focus on figuring out the aerodynamic package at the rear end of the car. The fruit of this process was on full display at the Sydney.com SuperTest earlier this month, as the Nissans debuted a set of end-mounted rear wings.
The hope is that the switch to the end-mounted design will see these cars barrel down the likes of Conrod Straight at a pace comparable to the rest of the field. To some degree, their hard work has already paid off, as the Kelly brothers surprised the field at the SuperTest by sweeping the top spot on the practice charts in all three of the Saturday sessions (Rick claimed the first two, while Todd was fastest in the third session).
If the Kelly brothers have gone about their business productively, then their work in the offseason will have solved their rear wing and drag problem and they can move on to the other elephant in their shop — the lack of horsepower from their engines. If those two puzzles can be solved, then the Kelly brothers should begin to display the pace they expected to see out of their Nissans when they made the switch two seasons ago.
Of note is that the other “half” of the recipe for success, consistency, was there for Rick in 2014 — he finished with only one DNF on the year, tied for third-best in the series with one Craig Lowndes.
The Kelly brothers know that there is still work to be done to get to where they want to be, but if they have done their homework, then their new wings might just give them a lift towards the front of the field.
For more information on Nissan Motorsport, visit http://www.nissanmotorsport.com.au/.
For more information on the V8 Supercars Championship, visit http://www.v8supercars.com.au/.