Kelly willing to sacrifice drive for team future

Todd Kelly

Todd Kelly

Todd Kelly says he’s willing to sacrifice his own driving career at the end of this season if it helps keep the remainder of Nissan Motorsport’s line-up intact.

The shape of the Melbourne-based team’s 2015 campaign is currently uncertain with sponsors Jack Daniel’s and Norton both out-of-contract.

The first to commit to a new manufacturer under the category’s Car of the Future era, the formerly Kelly Racing-branded outfit has struggled for competitiveness with its Nissan Altima package.

While encouraging results have been seen at the past two events, the team is braced for a rougher time on the long straights of Sandown and Bathurst.

Kelly is confident that ongoing development work will eventually yield results, but major performance improvements are unlikely to arrive before key sponsorship decisions are made.

The scenario puts the team in an uncomfortable position with drivers Michael Caruso and James Moffat, who signed a multi-year deal with the team last December.

Although the vast majority of key seats have already been filled, both drivers have been mentioned as possibilities for Volvo Polestar Racing’s #34 S60, which looks unlikely to be campaigned by Swede Robert Dahlgren for a second season.

Keen to keep both drivers on board and needing to ensure the team remains commercially funded, Kelly admits that his own place behind the wheel is far from certain.

“100 percent,” he told Speedcafe.com when asked if he’d sacrifice his own seat if one of the four current drivers needed to be replaced for commercial reasons. “But we’ll see whether or if we get to that point.”

Kelly stresses that his team must do everything it can to keep its key staff and continue its current four-car model, regardless of any decisions from Jack Daniel’s and Norton.

“It will be (affected by the commercial side), but in situations like this you really need to take a gamble and back yourselves to wrap the commercial side of it around the guys we have,” he said.

“If we lose any of the drivers we’re going to have a decrease in stability and performance, which will make it even harder to attract sponsors. It’s important that we don’t disturb any of that stuff.”

He added of needing to maintain four cars: “With what we need to do development wise with the engine and the car, it’s impossible to do that without all of our manufacturing capability.

“It wouldn’t be affordable to out-source any component of that and the manufacturing capability that we have doesn’t stack up unless we have four cars.

“If we went back to two cars, we wouldn’t be able to release many staff at all, so it makes no sense to think about that.”

Although playing a role in the team’s engineering department at its workshop, Kelly is so confident in his squad’s track staff that he says he may not even attend events if no longer a driver.

Appearing as a co-driver in the Pirtek Enduro Cup wouldn’t be guaranteed, either.

“I don’t know whether I’d necessarily want to just come back and do the three rounds, I’m not sure,” he said.

“I’d need to see what it feels like to be out of the car when that time comes.”

Prior to starting Kelly Racing in 2009, Kelly had spent eight full-time seasons with Walkinshaw Racing and one with Perkins Engineering.

That era saw the Mildura native a consistent front-runner, chalking up 19 race wins, including success at the Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000.

“I still definitely would have started a team,” he said when asked if he regrets moving away from a driver-only role.

“There’s only two or three things in all this Car of the Future scramble and having new manufacturers involved I would have done a lot differently.

“It’s put undue stress through the whole business, what we’re having to do, for the past two years now.

“The problem is that we’re doing twice as much as any other team. We’re only a race team on the race weekends, we’re a research and development operation, and a manufacturing operation, more so than we are a race team.

“When we can get through that phase and just focus 80 percent on actually racing the cars, running a four-car team with the people that we’ve got involved is an easy thing to do.

“At the end of the day we will get on top of it. It’s going to be one of the toughest things for us to get through, not just the logistics of it but also financially, but when we do it’d be a pretty big achievement to come out the other end.”

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