Kelly braced for emotional Nissan farewell

Todd Kelly says this weekend’s Newcastle Supercars round will be an emotional affair for the Kelly Racing squad, as it farewells the Nissan Altima package after seven years.

KR was responsible for bringing the Nissan brand back to Aussie touring car racing, inking a factory deal for the 2013 season that involved developing the Altima car and engine package.

The factory deal ended after the 2018 season, KR continuing with the four ageing Altimas as a privateer outfit for the past two seasons.

Over the seven years there were three race wins for the V8-powered Nissans – James Moffat at Winton in 2013, Michael Caruso in Darwin in 2016 and Rick Kelly at Winton in 2018.

The Altima era is now set to end at this weekend’s Newcastle 500, as the team prepares to scale back to two cars and switch to Ford Mustangs for 2020.

For Bathurst winner Todd Kelly that marks an emotional milestone, the KR team boss having not just raced the Altima himself, but played a key role in its development, particularly on the engine side.

“Today Kelly Racing arrives at its final event as a four-car Nissan team and a Supercars Championship manufacturer’s homologating team,” said Kelly.

“It’s definitely a little bit emotional considering how much has gone into the build and development of the Altima over the years, it has been a massive part of our team’s growth and history.

“The work that was required to bring this car into Supercars meant that as a team we had to learn a lot and really up-skill to the point where we now have 19 different departments from an engine shop, fabrication, machine shop, composites etcetera, capable of great things which will really put us in a good position for our next phase.

“We’re ending one chapter and beginning another really exciting one for the whole team as we build up our two new Ford Performance Mustangs for the 2020 Supercars championship season. We’re already making great progress both in terms of building the chassis that will become our first Mustang, but also testing and developing our Ford V8 engine.”

Rick Kelly and Andre Heimgartner have already been confirmed as the team’s two drivers for the first year of the Ford programme, which means Simona de Silvestro and Garry Jacobson will exit after Newcastle.

“I personally would also like to thank Garry and Simona for the hard work and professionalism that they have brought to the team over the last few years as main drivers,” added Todd Kelly. “They’ll be missed by the whole team but they both have bright futures ahead of them and I wish them all the best.”

De Silvestro is set to exit Supercars as a full-timer, the Swiss starlet expected to take up a Porsche GT drive along with Formula E testing duties and a potential Supercars enduro seat.

Jacobson, meanwhile, is expected to race one of two Matt Stone Racing Holdens in Supercars next year.

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