Q&A: Todd Kelly on ’emotional’ Nissan shakedown

Todd Kelly completed the Altima's first three laps

Todd Kelly completed the Altima’s first three laps

Q&A conducted by Nissan Australia’s press office and supplied by Jack Daniel’s Racing

QUESTION: Todd, it’s a great day in the Nissan Motorsport project, a day people have been waiting for. It’s the first time that the Nissan Altima V8 Supercar has turned a wheel in anger, just three days after the car was unveiled. What are your feelings on how the day panned out?

TODD KELLY: I haven’t had a chance to get too emotional about the whole project. We’ve been so busy getting the car built, then we’ve been busy getting the car assembled and ready for the launch and then from the launch we’ve been flat out getting the car ready for the shakedown today. So I haven’t had time to sit back and think ‘gee, that’s an awesome result’.

The Altima ran amazingly well today. I jumped in and had the very first three laps in the car. I went out onto the track, put my foot on the clutch and knocked it into gear and drove out, warmed the tyres up and then, after a lap, stood on the throttle. I felt and heard the engine come alive and leave two big black marks down the straight as it drove off. It was unreal.

That was the first point where I’ve thought ‘this is a pretty impressive project’ and … yeah, I got a bit emotional driving the car around. I got to stand on the pit wall and watch it come past for the rest of the day, so it was pretty cool. I can’t wait to get back (to the workshop), go over all the data that we’ve got from today, put everything into production and get the rest of the cars built.

QUESTION: Today there were the early laps where everyone on the team was pretty pleased to see you get that first moment in the car. After that you moved quickly into aerodynamic work. You weren’t really hanging around today shaking the car down, you went straight into the aero work.

TODD KELLY: Because of the weather yesterday we had to move the shakedown to today. The conditions were really perfect here, but we could only get onto the circuit between 8:30am and 12pm, so we had to get a huge amount of work done and we actually got absolutely everything done that we needed to and we were finished at 11:58am. So it worked out spot on and we couldn’t really afford to waste any time.

Luckily the car ran absolutely faultlessly. We didn’t have to touch the car at all, which is amazing for it’s first run. We just got through all of our testing items and stuck it back in the truck.

QUESTION: You have been driving Commodores your whole career. Is there any difference from inside the cockpit that you could see or feel? Some of those differences may also come through the new Car of The Future rules as well. A lot of people think the Altima looks a lot different to other V8 Supercars from the outside. Does it feel different on track?

TODD KELLY: The car is in aero test trim, so there are no brake ducts and a lot of the specification that we would race with is not actually what is in the car. The suspension (for aerodynamic testing) is different as well. So I didn’t really tip it into a corner to feel what the car would do. And I’ve only got one arm at the moment to steer the thing!

As far as what it feels like, it’s just more about the look of the car, the transaxle and gearbox feels a lot different, the throttle throw and response feels different and obviously the Nissan engine. It’s good to jump in. It’s really the most ‘different’ car I’ve driven since I raced open wheelers.

QUESTION: What happens from here? You’ve obviously collected a lot of information from today. What is the process from here? Will the car run again between now and the homologation process or is it full steam ahead with aero testing at the moment?

TODD KELLY: We will go back (to the workshop) and decipher all the data, which is probably a good day and a half day’s work to get the results out of what we have just done on the track. We’ve only got a few days now to put the final touches on the car that V8 Supercars have requested, little things like a couple of panels under the bonnet and bonnet seals for the aero test.

We actually have to hand the car over to V8 Supercars early next week so come next Tuesday that will be the last we see of the car until the aero test. So it will be full steam ahead on production of items that we have made so far that we can produce, to get a head start on that.

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