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For just a moment there’s anger in Todd Kelly’s eyes and his mouth firms into a thin line. He doesn’t like the question, or the insinuation behind it. Surely, he’s asked, winning just two Supercars races in five years played a role in Nissan Australia’s decision to cut its ties from the end of 2018 with the team he co-owns?
For all the effort to get the Altima aerodynamics sorted, the VK56DE multi-cam V8 engine competitive and all the brilliant sponsorship activations, the lack of on-track success must have been a factor in the end?
“To say we have won two races… that needs to be put into perspective because a lot of people focus on that,” Kelly answers, through slightly gritted teeth.
“In this day and age, in this category, to win a race and get a pole positon or a podium with what we have got here is like winning the championship.
“To get our engine out of a road car to perform against the current [Ford and GM pushrod racing] engines is bloody significant.
“People take that way too lightly. If anyone actually knew what was involved in getting a car competitive let alone beat the operations that we are racing against … it’s massive.”
“To me that’s like winning Bathurst every year; getting the cars to the front is huge. I see this whole thing with what we have had to do as a complete success.”
Todd’s sitting in the boardroom at Nissan Motorsport’s sprawling shop in the southern Melbourne suburb of Braeside. Up here in the front offices it’s all chrome and glass. Racing paraphernalia and evidence of the Nissan relationship are everywhere.
There’s going to have to be a substantial interior makeover for 2019. Even moreso in 2020 when the Altimas are retired and Kelly Racing moves on to racing another brand. But before we talk about all that, Todd is determined to set the record straight on the Nissan experience.
“People would have thrown the towel in two years in. When you are 30-40 horsepower off the mark, five kays down and you are swerving up the straight because there are cars passing you either side; that’s what we started with,” he continues.
“What we have invested for this to work … I would get anyone to attempt what we have done and nobody in their right mind would. There is no way.
“The engine rules we have got, to bring anything into this category other than a purpose-built race engine won’t work. And we have achieved that. So that to me, regardless of what anyone says, is massive.
“Not many people would have gone and dug their heels in and tried as hard and put as much effort in as we have.
“Don’t say we have won two races and it’s been a failure because it has been a massive success to do it with what we have got and how we had to do it.”
It’s a passionate, intense outburst from a passionate, intense man. And it’s understandable. It’s been a tumultuous few months for Todd, on top a tumultuous few years. He called it quits on his Supercars career at the end of 2017 and then, only months later, was faced with the reality of Nissan’s withdrawal.
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