17 JUN 2017
Dramatic day of racing in Darwin
Nissan Motorsport has experienced the full range of motorsport emotions during a dramatic day of racing at the Crownbet Darwin Triple Crown.
The highlight of today's action came early, as Rick Kelly claimed the 9th pole position of his career - with a scorching 1:05.71 lap time. Starting from pole in the 42 lap event, the #15 Sengled Racing driver made a sharp getaway to lead the field, battling off advances from McLaughlin and Reynolds in the process. By lap four, he had pulled out almost a second on the chasing pack. But unfortunately, a struck throttle speared Kelly off the track at turn 11 and out of the race. However, the team is encouraged by the single-lap speed ahead of tomorrow's qualifying and Top 10 Shootout.
This afternoon's race marked the 300th start in Michael Caruso's Supercars career. After recording the 3rd fastest time in final practice, the #23 Nissan NISMO driver headed into qualifying keen to repeat his strong performance from last year's event. Caruso held off completing his quick run until midway through the session, by which point the ambient had begun to climb. In the end, he was only able to qualify 22nd. Disappointingly, contact on the first lap of the race turned the #23 Altima around and straight to the back of the pack. A gritty charge from the tercentenarian (I had to google that word too...) saw him cross the line in 16th.
After starting from 12th on the grid, Todd Kelly was forced to nurse his #7 carsales Racing Altima's bent steering for the duration of today's event - following contact on the opening lap with James Courtney. While his competitor was eventually penalised for the contact, Kelly's afternoon had been severely compromised. In the end, Todd would finish in 18th place. The team is aiming to secure a stronger position in tomorrow's qualifying to better take advantage of his pace in the race. Last year Kelly jumped from 10th to 2nd in the event's Top 10 Shootout, so we're all hopeful that Todd can repeat history tomorrow.
Simona De Silvestro has continued her learning process, with a challenging day behind the wheel of the #78 Team Harvey Norman Nissan Altima. Visiting Hidden Valley for the first time, De Silvestro qualified in 25th and made a clean getaway at the start of the 120km event. A tidy pit stop on lap 11 allowed De Silvestro to rejoin in the midpack. As chaos reigned around the Darwin rookie, Simona would spend much of the event as the leading Nissan. However, tyre degradation would eventually result in a 20th place finishing position.
Rick Kelly - #15 Sengled Racing - DNF
"Today was a reasonably promising day. We did the best job we could with the things we could control. Unfortunately, from the pit stop onwards we had a number of things out of our control. We'll try and bounce back tomorrow and get a good result. The areas where we struggle as a team are going to make it difficult to stay up the front. The one lap pace of the car is really good. We have the race pace to run in the Top 5. So that our aim tomorrow."
Michael Caruso - #23 Nissan NISMO - 16th
"Starting 300 races is one of the achievements you never really think about. I really want to thank my family and friends for being so supportive. I'd never had thought I'd achieve such a significant milestone. The race itself wasn't as memorable. Getting turned around and being put at the back of the field was obviously a tough way to start the race. We were able to move forward, so there are positives to take away."
Todd Kelly - #7 carsales Racing - 18th
"The car was reasonable, and even with bent steering it was still one of the faster cars out there. We'll have another go tomorrow. We've got plenty of info to look at with what Rick was able to achieve. Hopefully, we can have a cleaner run tomorrow with the speed that is obviously there."
Simona De Silvestro - #78 Team Harvey Norman - 20th
"Hopefully we'll qualify better tomorrow and make changes overnight. Starting further up the order will help us. The car isn't too bad, but I learned a lot about the tyre degradation and how to manage that. Tomorrow is a much longer race, so we'll look to take what we learned and apply that to get a better result after 200km."