Rick Kelly was ‘frustrated’ at being unable to fully utilise a strong Castrol Altima due to fuel conservation as he and Dale Wood finished ninth in the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
Kelly and Wood were the highest finishing Kelly Racing pair in Sunday’s Great Race after Andre Heimgartner’s late crash, which set up the one-lap dash to the chequered flag.
Theirs was among several cars that made its final pit stop under the Lap 135 Safety Car, creating the scenario of a 26-lap stint to the finish.
Having qualified 11th and generally run just inside the top 10 during the 161-lap race, Kelly dropped to 15th due to having to stack behind Heimgartner in that pit stop.
Despite even resorting to coasting on straights, he managed to get back to fifth, which he held until Lap 154, in what was the car’s longest stint in the race by three laps.
“(The) race was kind of boring for me for the first 400km but after that it really heated up,” he recalled.
“We had a great race car and we were able to use it to get up into the top 10, despite a couple of dramas like having a rear wheel nut come loose during one of Dale’s stints.
“And some of the Safety Cars helped us, then we had a double stack pit stop with one of the incidents which really hurt us and I think we were back down to 15th.
“We were then able to get up to fifth towards the end there but we were in serious fuel conservation mode with the numbers I was being asked to do.
“That was seriously hard to execute to get us to the end of the race but I enjoyed the challenge and with that final Safety Car meant that we had enough fuel for that last lap to really push and the car was fantastic, so a little bit frustrating that we had such a good car but couldn’t use it in the end there because we needed to save fuel.
“But that was probably the best car we’ve had here for a long, long time, the crew did a fantastic job so I’m looking forward to getting to Gold Coast and seeing what we can do.”
In Kelly Racing’s #3 Altima, Garry Jacobson was 10th into the pits and 11th on exit during the Lap 135 Safety Car.
Having pitted again on Lap 141, Jacobson was battling with Richie Stanaway for 13th when the collided on the main straight and ended up in the wall together at Hell Corner on Lap 151.
Jacobson made the finish two laps down, meaning he and co-driver Dean Fiore were classified 20th, while stewards opted to take no further action over the clash having deemed neither driver wholly or predominately to blame.
“Our car was clearly quicker than Ritchie’s and we were behind him for about six laps and he made his own mistake going through the last corner then I got up next to him and then once I was next to him he started driving into my car down the straight,” said Jacobson.
“After the third or fourth time hitting me down the straight he cut my tyre and went into the next corner without any grip and we ended up taking each other out into the sand trap.
“Aside from that I think the process of us getting into the top 10 before the contact was an extraordinary effort by the team, the car has handled its best with the latest aero change and a couple of other things we’ve worked on with set-up.
“We were a top 10 contender today through genuine pace, the pit stop strategy was good, if you had of told me at the start of the year we would be top 10 at Bathurst I would have been pretty surprised so big thanks to my crew, the car was faultless.”