Rick Kelly has admitted he feared a switch to racing Fords next year would spark a backlash from fans but has been pleasantly surprised by the reaction.
Next year will see the Braeside operation adopt its third manufacturer since it joined Supercars having begun with a four-year stint running Holdens.
It switched to Nissan as part of a deal to become the factory team running the in-house developed Altimas for seven seasons before moving to GM arch rival Ford for next season.
Given the team’s history with Holden from 2009-2012, Kelly admitted there was some trepidation about announcing a move to Ford, but has been blown away by the response from fans.
“Personally that’s (switching to Ford) been a massive thing because obviously I have driven for two other manufacturers, and the first one I drove with was the big enemy,” said Kelly.
“So that was a concern for me when we first announced it; more so what everyone else’s reaction would be to it.
“For me, it was an interesting day walking into the Ford office for the first meeting and seeing the logo on the wall and wondering what it would turn into.
“But I’ve got an old pickup truck that’s a Ford, and Ford’s been a part of my heritage in Mildura to some extent anyway.
“There’s always been that rivalry, so for us, it’s something that I’ve been really pleasantly surprised by the reaction, of not only Ford to welcome us into their family, but the Ford fanbase.
“That was the concern what would be the backlash there, and everyone’s really welcomed us in – even on the driver’s parade around the Newcastle track, and the amount of people that come up in the signing sessions now in their Ford gear and welcome us has been a real surprise.
“That’s something that we’re excited about, and getting out and representing both the brand and the fanbase behind it.”
Kelly Racing faces a busy off-season preparing its two Mustangs in addition to an in-house engine program.
Given the enormity of the task to switch manufacturers Kelly is keeping his expectations in check when the new season begins in Adelaide.
“We’ve got some work to do with engines so we’re not thinking that we’re just going to go out there and it’ll just throw us straight to the front,” Kelly added.
“There’s a lot of work to do for us to get to that point, and from a driver’s point of view, the engine, the car, the way we build, all that stuff is going to have a huge influence – and there’s no free kick in this game.
“We’re excited about it, but we also see the challenge in front of us and doing the best job in all those key areas to come out strong.”
The Kelly Racing Mustangs will contest their first race at the Superloop Adelaide 500 from February 20-23.
Fans can follow the team’s progress in building its Mustangs through a new video series. CLICK HERE for the latest episode.