Rick Kelly expects he and co-driver Dale Wood will reap the rewards of a lighter engine during long runs in this year’s Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
The Castrol Racing driver believes a weight reduction to the engine’s block will help the team with tyre wear at Mount Panorama.
Kelly debuted the newly lightened engine at the most recent round of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship at The Bend Motorsport Park.
While each race lasted a little under 110 km, Kelly said he noticed greater tyre longevity over the race length.
That, Kelly said, bodes well for the season-ending Bathurst 1000.
“It’s hard to tell what each track is going to produce, it’s the first time with the car at all of these tracks as we all know,” Kelly told Speedcafe.com.
“We’re constantly learning. At Tailem Bend, my personal view on it was that it was a bit of an improvement for us is that longevity of looking after the tyre.
“I think that should help it at Bathurst, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
The 2006 champion said that while tyre preservation will be beneficial in the 161-lap race, he’s conscious that qualifying on a new tyre is still a sore point for the team.
“We’ve got a lot of practice so we can do long runs and try and also get a little bit more focus on the qualifying pace,” Kelly explained.
“I know it’s obviously on a different (hard) tyre (for Bathurst) but it seems to be the area that we needed to put the most focus on.
“We just haven’t been able to unlock that pace on a new tyre. Our race pace, particularly at The Bend, has been pretty strong.
“Had we had put ourselves in a position up the front in qualifying I think we would’ve been able to stay there. That’s an area to keep working on.”
The lightening of the engine block is the next step for Kelly Racing in its engine programme.
The team will continue to develop its engine package in the off-season where it is expected even further weight reductions are to take place.
Kelly said that while team-mate Andre Heimgartner hasn’t had his engine installed yet, which will come in time for the Bathurst 1000, it was beneficial to compare the two engines in Tailem Bend.
“All these things you work on are small changes. Like any team you’re trying to chase little things like this to keep moving forward,” he said.
“The engine is the same spec as the other one, it just has a slightly lightened block. It just helps to build towards a car that has slightly more potential with where the weight is.
“It’s good to get that done and dusted at Tailem Bend. It’s also good to have one car with that package and one car without so we can do a back-to-back and learn a little bit more and put us in a slightly better position for Bathurst.”
The Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, which doubles at the Supercars season closer, will take place on October 15-18.