Kelly eager to convert strong Winton start

Rick Kelly finished second in Practice 2 pic: AJP Photography

Rick Kelly hopes his Nissan Motorsport team can capitalise on strong practice form at Winton just days after it was confirmed that the team will lose its factory support next year.

The Braeside outfit scored a one-two in Practice 2 held in dry conditions which follows what has been a pivotal week for the team in mapping out its future.

Confirmation of Nissan’s withdrawal arrives at a time where the team is arguably enjoying its strongest run of form with the Altimas since they joined the championship in 2013.

Michael Caruso topped the second 45 minute session today edging Kelly by 0.016s, while Andre Heimgartner was only a tenth off the leading pace in sixth.

Simona de Silvestro showed top 10 pace in the earlier wet session before finishing the final 45 minute hit out in 18th position.

Kelly admitted his brother and team co-owner Todd Kelly was particularly emotional to see the cars at the top of the times, but emphasised that team must convert its pace over the weekend.

“I mean it’s important for us to put that (Nissan’s withdrawal) behind us and get on with whatever the future holds for us and the guys have done so much work over the last six months in particular but (also) the last five years,” said Kelly.

“They’ve created a package that’s nice and competitive and that’s really started to show lately.

“We’re excited about that, everyone, and Todd in particular just earlier spoke to me about how excited and just how emotional he is to see those two cars up there and obviously Andre only a tenth behind us as well, so it’s exciting.

“But again, we need to make it happen over the next couple of days and capitalise on it when we do have the pace because there will still be tracks where we need some improving.

“Once we capitalise on this pace we need to quickly focus on those (other tracks) and improve those results as well.”

Caruso says that the mood inside the team has been positive since Nissan’s announcement on Tuesday.

“It’s been really good to be honest,” said Caruso of the feeling within the team.

“The good thing is we have a very open relationship in our team.

“I don’t think anyone ever feels like they’re not sure where we’re heading in a direction as a group.

“And when you think about when you work in a workplace with 60 odd people, sometimes it’s easy to feel like you’re just a part of a big working wheel but the boys do a good job to keep everyone in the loop.

“I think that’s important because it keeps the motivation going and I guess for us it’s just important to keep doing what we’re doing on track well and that just rolls onto the guys feeling good about the job that the whole team are doing.”

The Winton SuperSprint continues on Saturday with a 45 minute final practice session, scheduled for 1030 local time/AEST.

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