Rick Kelly tops opening Sydney test session

Rick Kelly's Jack Daniel's Altima

Rick Kelly’s Jack Daniel’s Altima

Rick Kelly’s partnership with new engineer George Commins is off to a positive start, with the #15 Nissan Altima proving fastest in the first session at Sydney Motorsport Park.

Today’s test is split into three sessions, with the first taking place over two and a half hours. Track conditions were dry for the most part, despite light sprinkles of rain falling during the morning.

Kelly set his best of 1:30.59s in the final minutes to bump previous fast-man Chaz Mostert from the top of the order by just 0.0065s.

Tim Slade was less than 0.01s further back in third having set his personal best shortly after the first hour had elapsed.

“We’ve obviously come in with a different race engineer and data engineer on my car so we’re a bit out of our comfort zone with that,” Kelly told Speedcafe.com.

“We stepped through two really old sets of tyres and then did a run with a set that was under 100kms old and went really well.

“We’ve still got a bit of work to do on how the car will react on green tyres and we’ll deal with that as the test day goes on.”

Like the Holdens and Fords, the Nissans also have a revised aerodynamic package for this season, which has included moving to an end-plate mounted rear wing.

“It’s slightly different,” said Kelly of driving with the new Nissan package.

“We had a couple of things to fine tune (on the car to deal with the different aero) and now it’s really nice and balanced, so we’re pretty happy.”

Chaz Mostert went second fastest in his FG X

Chaz Mostert went second fastest in his FG X

The Ford teams meanwhile had an early challenge with their new aero, as all three FG X drivers reported bonnet flexing early in the going.

The reprofiled bonnet bulge, which now runs all the way to the trailing edge of the bonnet, has required extra bracing in order to stop movement at high-speed.

“We’ve sorted out some temporary bracing for today and will have a more permanent solution sorted for Adelaide,” said Prodrive’s Tim Edwards.

Prodrive also dealt with minor flexing of the bootlid on one of its FG Xs, which have their rear wing further back than on the FG.

All three FG X Falcons, including Mostert’s new chassis that had not turned a wheel until this morning, are running without spare front bars this weekend amid the rush to produce the new bodywork following January’s homologation running.

Clutch problems meanwhile hit DJR Team Penske’s Marcos Ambrose, who had a spin at Turn 2 before spending the last hour of the session pit-bound while the team attended to the issue.

The former NASCAR driver ended the session 23rd, ahead only of the Super Black Racing Falcon FG of Andre Heimgartner.

The session’s only red flag belonged to Nick Percat, who parked his Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport Holden at the final corner after it lost a right-front wheel, which had gradually worked loose during a run.

“I was coming around the back of Corporate Hill and felt it was loose. By the time I got to the last left-handers it came off,” he said.

Former Walkinshaw stalwart Percat had spent his morning getting used to LDM’s Triple Eight customer package.

“It’s a totally different world from where I’ve come from and it’s going to take a bit of time to work it out,” he said.

Team-mate Tim Blanchard meanwhile did not turn a lap in the first session, with the team still completing preparations on the ex-Russell Ingall Commodore.

“It was a lot of work for the guys to build up two cars in a couple of weeks,” said Blanchard.

“We had a few things to finish off on my car to make sure it was right before we send it out.”

The only co-drivers to run in the first session were Dean Fiore, who cut laps in Michael Caruso’s Nissan, and Tekno Autosports team owner Jonathon Webb.

Taz Douglas (Nissan), Alex Davison (Erebus) and Jack Perkins (Holden Racing Team) are also set to cut laps later in the day.

The next session will get underway at 1:00pm local time.

Fabian Coulthard pushed hard on the way to fourth fastest

Fabian Coulthard pushed hard on the way to fourth fastest

Result: Session 1, Sydney Motorsport Park SuperTest

1 Nissan Motorsport Rick Kelly Nissan Altima 34 32 1:30.5886*
2 Ford Pepsi Max Crew Chaz Mostert Ford Falcon FG/X 38 11 1:30.5951 0:00.0065
3 Supercheap Auto Racing Tim Slade Holden Commodore VF 38 21 1:30.6040 0:00.0154
4 Freightliner Racing Fabian Coulthard Holden Commodore VF 48 36 1:30.7284 0:00.1398
5 The Bottle-O Racing Team David Reynolds Ford Falcon FG 34 19 1:30.7972 0:00.2086
6 Wilson Security Racing GRM Scott McLaughlin Volvo S60 36 18 1:30.8611 0:00.2725
7 Holden Racing Team James Courtney Holden Commodore VF 33 17 1:30.8800 0:00.2914
8 Team TEKNO Darrell Lea S.Van Gisbergen/J.Webb Holden Commodore VF 41 21 1:30.8947 0:00.3061
9 Red Bull Racing Australia Jamie Whincup Holden Commodore VF 43 28 1:30.8963 0:00.3077
10 Walkinshaw Racing Lee Holdsworth Holden Commodore VF 32 14 1:30.8990 0:00.3104
11 Nissan Motorsport James Moffat Nissan Altima 35 16 1:30.9383 0:00.3497
12 Ford Pepsi Max Crew Mark Winterbottom Ford Falcon FG/X 34  8 1:31.0041 0:00.4155
13 Team BOC Jason Bright Holden Commodore VF 35 18 1:31.0678 0:00.4792
14 Nissan Motorsport M.Caruso/D.Fiore Nissan Altima 40 36 1:31.2040 0:00.6154
15 Wilson Security Racing GRM David Wall Volvo S60 38 21 1:31.2716 0:00.6830
16 LD Motorsprts Nick Percat Holden Commodore VF 23 13 1:31.3528 0:00.7642
17 Holden Racing Team Garth Tander Holden Commodore VF 23 20 1:31.4400 0:00.8514
18 Nissan Motorsport Todd Kelly Nissan Altima 28 27 1:31.4557 0:00.8671
19 Erebus Motorsport V8 Will Davison Mercedes E63 AMG 32 19 1:31.4583 0:00.8697
20 Team GB Galvanizing Dale Wood Holden Commodore VF 29 16 1:31.5403 0:00.9517
21 Red Bull Racing Australia Craig Lowndes Holden Commodore VF 55 22 1:31.6118 0:01.0232
22 Erebus Motorsport V8 Ashley Walsh Mercedes E63 AMG 30 10 1:31.7073 0:01.1187
23 DJR Team Penske Marcos Ambrose Ford Falcon FG/X 18 13 1:31.8565 0:01.2679
24 Super Black Racing Andre Heimgartner Ford Falcon FG 40 39 1:32.3009 0:01.7123


Join the discussion below in the Speedcafe.com comments section

Please note: Speedcafe.com reserves the right to remove any comment that does not follow the comment policy. For support, contact [email protected]