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Kelly to fly lightened engine in for Bathurst 1000

Simon Chapman

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Friday 25th September, 2020 - 6:00am

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Todd Kelly

Kelly Racing boss Todd Kelly will next week embark on a cross-country dash to prepare an upgraded engine for Andre Heimgartner in time for the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.

Castrol Racing driver Rick Kelly will debut the first of the team’s lightened engines in the #15 Ford Mustang at The Bend Motorsport Park this weekend.

However, the team’s second engine, which will go in the #7 Ned Racing entry driven by Heimgartner, sits unassembled in Queensland.

Speaking with Speedcafe.com, team co-owner Todd Kelly explained his plans following this weekend’s penultimate Virgin Australia Supercars Championship round.

Kelly will fly his single-engine turboprop Pilatus PC-12 to the Gold Coast, which will then transport the engine, once complete, back to Adelaide before being fitted to Heimgartner’s car in time for the Great Race.

“I put (the first engine) together last week and that’s in Rick’s car for the first time this weekend,” said Kelly.

“There’s another engine in bits that I stripped before we left Brisbane still sitting up there. It’s certainly taken a lot of labour and logistics to do all of this away from work.

To faciliate the move, Kelly has had to make some modifications to the plane’s interior.

“I’ve actually got all the seats pulled out of the back of the plane, which luckily has been in Adelaide this whole period,” Kelly added.

“I’ll fly back up to the Gold Coast on Monday morning, build the engine, get it dyno’d, get it back in the plane, and back to Adelaide to throw the engine in the car and head off to Bathurst.

“There’s enough room in the back cargo door to fit a full pallet in so we can put the engine in the back and fly it back.”

Kelly said the engine lightening is the next step in the team’s development of its Ford Mustang package.

However, he said there is still more work to be done once the team returns to its Melbourne base following the conclusion of the 2020 season.

“I managed to strip an engine a few weeks back when we were back in Brisbane and we had a fair bit of work on all the ancillaries on the engine,” Kelly explained.

“We’ve been able to take a good chunk of weight out and rebuild one engine and get it re-homologated at the new weight.

“We’re not all the way to where we need to be, but we’ve at least been able to knock a chunk out of it.”

Kelly Racing has been working out of the workshop of offshore powerboat racing team 222 Marine on the Gold Coast.

Weight reductions to the team’s two engines had long been on the radar, but to date has been stifled by the coronavirus pandemic.

Kelly Racing has also faced engine reliability issues. Kelly discovered a nearly catastrophic engine valve guide issue that could have resulted in the failure of all its engines.

As a result, it’s full cache of engines had to be rebuilt ahead of the Darwin Triple Crown at Hidden Valley Raceway.

“It’s been pretty difficult to do anything without being at the workshop,” Kelly explained.

“We had all of that valve guide drama going on, so that caused us to have to strip all the engines and put the top ends back together at the circuit.

“We’ve been a little bit stuck trying to ship complete engines just trying to have as many of the spares together as we can in case we had potential dramas with this valve thing.

“In the end, that all worked out to be quite good and we got on top of that. We haven’t had any issues with them since.

“We’ve made the most of the time away and achieved quite a lot, which is good,” Kelly added.

“Not any of the big stuff, but things that we could get done here we’ve had a few bits and pieces lightened in machine shops in Brisbane.

“The bulk of it has been done back in our workshop and sent up so at least we’re progressing, which is good.

“But I just can’t wait to get back there and really hook into it properly, which is really where we should’ve been back in March, April this year and still haven’t been able to attack it properly.”

Kelly Racing will continue its Virgin Australia Supercars Championship campaign at The Bend Motorsport Park on September 26-27.

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