Nissan identifies next focus in search of regular podiums

Rick Kelly led the way for Nissan Motorsport at Hidden Valley Raceway pic: AJP Photography

Improving race pace is the next key in helping Nissan Motorsport regularly contend for podiums, according to general manager Scott Sinclair.

The Braeside operation continued its strong start to the season in Darwin with Rick Kelly and Michael Caruso claiming back-to-back top 10 finishes to build on the momentum created from a breakthrough victory at Winton.

Kelly once again led the operation proving the Altima’s strong one lap pace by scoring a pole position for Race 16, while Caruso was seventh in the Armor All Top 10 Shootout on the Sunday.

The display arrived after the duo qualified fourth and ninth for the Saturday race.

While the pair starred in qualifying trim, Kelly and Caruso drifted back in the races with the former sixth and fifth respectively, while Caruso brought his car home in ninth and 10th.

Andre Heimgartner scored a pair of 16th place finishes while Simona de Silvestro finished the races in 22nd and 17th positions in the other two Altima entries.

Sinclair believes the four car squad has a handle on one lap place but now needs to focus on its performances in the races.

Kelly has qualified inside the top six in seven of the last eight races.

“We are really happy with the one lap pace in particular,” Sinclair told Speedcafe.com.

“The race pace on Saturday wasn’t brilliant but we made some positive steps with car #15 and the race pace was a bit better.

“That is what we are working on now. We have been around long enough to know that getting the one lap pace is probably harder than race pace. We are looking forward to trying to fix that.

“We qualified well at the last few events but haven’t been able to consistently get on the podium because of our race pace.”

Nissan Motorsport will now begin preparations for the Watpac Townsville 400 (July 6-8) which has proved a difficult event for the squad in the past.

The Altima is yet to score a top six finish at the venue since it joined the championship in 2013.

“As a group we are quite disappointed with the weekend because we felt we were capable of some better results, so we will go home happy with the car pace, but there is still plenty to work on,” added Sinclair.

“Now we head to Townsville where we haven’t been strong in the past and we are looking forward to the challenge.

“This group of guys and girls have got a real appetite for hard work at the moment and they are making the cars faster.”

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