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Todd Kelly: First pole with Mustang a ‘big surprise’

Simon Chapman

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Tuesday 21st July, 2020 - 6:00am

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Andre Heimgartner claimed his first Supercars pole position in the new Ford Mustang

Todd Kelly admits his team’s first pole position with its new Ford Mustang was a “big surprise” and came a lot earlier than he anticipated.

Kelly Racing has faced an uphill battle this season, downsizing its four-car Nissan Altima operation to a Ford Mustang pairing.

The team built a new car for Rick Kelly while one of its old chassis was converted for Andre Heimgartner.

A new engine package has been a focal point of development with the team still eying an opportunity to take weight out of the engine block.

Kelly said after the rush to reconfigure its line-up, he was pleasantly surprised to see Heimgartner claim his first career pole position.

“That was really impressive, to have come that far in that timeframe is pretty amazing,” Kelly told Speecafe.com.

“It was amazing. We’re all pretty lowkey so no one was doing backflips or anything. It was just a really good reward for the amount of effort that everyone has put in.

“This team didn’t exist as a Ford team only a few short months ago. We didn’t even have any of this equipment.

“So to have designed it, built it, done that and achieved the pole is just a massive box ticked and a relief to have got to this point that we can get on with it now.

Kelly said he’s been buoyed by the result and believes there’s still room for improvement once the team can modify the cars.

“It was a big surprise, especially at that circuit,” he added.

“To have done it there, I must say I wasn’t expecting that. We could have had a solid top five, that would’ve been probably where I thought the cars would be at if they did a good job.

“The tyres did mix it up a fair bit, but at the end of the day, the pole time was as good as anyone’s. That really shows that the car was genuinely fast, which is really good at this stage.”

Heimgartner went on to claim second place in the 32-lap finale, which was won by Jack Le Brocq who executed an undercut and leapfrogged the Kiwi in the pit stop sequence.

Despite missing out on a win, Kelly said he was happy with the result, which was in stark contrast to the first event at Sydney Motorsport Park in late June.

At the third round – the BP Ultimate Sydney SuperSprint – Heimgartner recorded finishes of 15th, 10th, and 15th while Rick Kelly claimed 14th, 19th, and 17th in the three races.

For a time Kelly was worried they might have a repeat performance on their hands.

“It was probably the most disappointing weekend we’ve had for a while, the previous weekend at Eastern Creek,” said Kelly.

“Saturday was almost the same. We weren’t really competitive at all.

“In the break between the two rounds there we’d done a huge amount of work to the cars even though we were stuck up at our farm off-site.

“We managed to make quite a lot of changes to the cars so when we got back to Eastern Creek we had a whole different beast to try and deal with.

“That took a little bit for everyone to get their head around it. By Sunday, we kind of worked out where things were and dialled the cars right in.

“To have done that that fast, especially given that we’ve got a lot of development to do with the car that we can’t now, to do that with what we’ve got is really promising.

“Andre and Rick did a great job, we just need to focus a bit more on things like our pit stops now and try and keep a bit of that momentum going.”

Kelly Racing and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship returns to on-track action with back-to-back rounds at Hidden Valley Raceway on August 8-9 and 15-16.

Kelly said the team is “flying blind” heading to Darwin, with little knowledge of how its engine package will cope with the expected high temperatures.

“The engine has never been run in such conditions that we experience in Darwin,” said Kelly.

“There’ll be a bit of tuning with that, how the whole car and engine package performs, there is a huge unknown for us.

“We’re going to have to wait to get there to find out where we’re at. At least we’ll get a couple of cracks at it if we don’t get it right the first time.”

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