Todd Kelly admitted his team has left performance on the table due to the busy off-season developing its all-new Ford Mustang, including engines.
Kelly Racing switched from Nissan Altimas to the Mustangs over the off-season, trimming its squad from four cars to two in the process.
That saw it convert one of its Altima chassis, build another from scratch, and embark on an ambitious in-house engine programme.
Starting out with a Stone Brothers Racing engine block, the team systematically developed the engine into a race-ready unit.
However, with tight time constraints a number of performance gains could not be fully exploited; key among those is the engine’s weight.
“The biggest issue is we didn’t have time to lighten any of it,” team co-owner Todd Kelly explained to Speedcafe.com.
“So the whole exterior of the block and internally in the block, all the teams over years and years have developed a CNC program to basically machine the whole inner and outer surface of that block.
“You can pull a huge amount of weight out of the block, and the same with the cylinder head all externally lightened and all internally lightened.
“So that gets your engine down to minimum weight and that enables you to get your car down to minimum axle weight and we didn’t have time to do any of that stuff.”
That process will take time, and require the engine to be re-homologated by Supercars.
It therefore won’t be ready in time for the Beaurepaires Melbourne 400 next month, though there are hopes to introduce the developments during the 2020 season.
“I’d be a two- or three-round process too, because we got to pull the engines apart, get permission, do all the work, rebuild them (the engines),” explained Kelly.
“Then (we need to) go and get everything rehomologated again before we can actually run it.
“So we’re stuck with what we’ve got now for the first few rounds, but once we get time to carry all that work out, we’ll see a decent chunk in track performance.”
In Adelaide, Kelly Racing recorded two top 10 results with a ninth for Rick Kelly in the opening race on Saturday, and 10th for Andre Heimgartner on Sunday.
The competitive showing was a shot in the arm for Kelly and the whole team.
“I’ve been pretty emotional about it, but the guys deserve everything that hopefully this Ford Mustang program will bring,” he said.
“They’ve certainly worked harder than most, just to get to the grid – well, a hundred percent harder than most to get to the grid – this year.
(They) have all done an amazing job to have made the sacrifices that they all have through the break and to basically arrive here (South Australia) completely exhausted and demoralised and physically and mentally, not in a position to execute a race meeting.
“(That they) have still managed to do that is a full credit to the team of people we got here.”
Kelly cut a happy figure in the Adelaide pitlane across the weekend after both cars ran faultlessly across the event.
The team will now move to Melbourne for the second round of the season in Albert Park over the March 12-15 weekend.