Insights with Rick Kelly: Economy makes the difference

Good fuel economy made all the difference last Sunday, earning V8 Supercars driver and columnist Rick Kelly a deserved podium finish on the Gold Coast.

Sunday’s race certainly was an exciting one from my vantage point. Coming home from the Gold Coast with a shiny new surfboard is always a great feeling.

We’ve done a lot of fuel economy races in the past, but certainly not in the last 24 months.

But it happens from time-to-time when the safety car comes out just a bit too early, and you pit like everyone else and then try to make it to the end without a splash and dash.

For me, I really enjoyed that challenge. It’s something that I’ve liked in the past, and on the weekend it was fascinating to be put in that position again.

In the Nissan camp we have reasonable fuel economy, but you still have to use different techniques to keep the usage down while maintaining competitive lap times.

Also, it really does come down to the style of circuit you are on. The Surfers Paradise track lends itself to fuel saving if you need to in different areas.

A track that has 90-degree corners and long straights makes it very difficult, because you have to stand on the throttle for extended periods of time. But if the track has more flow, you can drive differently to achieve the speed.

Fortunately for me, the guys in the pits were very helpful and accurate with the fuel numbers I had to achieve, so I could keep an eye on it in every single corner of that last stint.

There are a lot of different techniques you can use behind the wheel to save fuel. Short shifting isn’t a method I used, however. On the weekend I really had to put a lot of stress on the different components of the car trying to get it slowed down for the tighter corners, or flowing through the chicanes.

Certainly from inside the car, if you compared a fuel saving lap versus a flat out race lap, it would look and sound completely different.

We had to save a lot of fuel. It was difficult, I guess that’s why only two cars in the field successfully tried to save fuel and make it home, and we both finished on the podium.

To some extent I was surprised that nobody else tried our strategy. Some people dived into the pits straight away, whereas our aim was to try our very hardest to get to the end, and if it wasn’t possible, we would have pitted later in the race or used a Safety Car period to save fuel. It’s always a chance of hitting the track, so we kept that in mind.

It was an interesting exercise, I was trying very hard to keep the car’s pace up and save more than I had to just in case we had to fight at the finish.

We did that, and over those last two laps I was back up to a reasonable pace. Fortunately we had a good gap and could secure second, but unfortunately James Courtney was just that little bit too far down the road.

At one point he had a lead of seven seconds and we got it down to two seconds at the chequered flag, so it just wasn’t quite enough.

Nevertheless to be second last at the start of the race and finish second was pretty exciting.

Racing for Surfboards

Trophies are something that has been talked about a fair bit of late, both in V8 Supercars and other sports around the world.

When you look at North America in IndyCar and NASCAR, there are some fantastic trophies. When you win the Borg Warner Trophy at the Indy 500, it’s just about bigger than you! The trophy has a great history in itself, and an item everyone shoots for.

I think it’s an important part of the sport, and the heritage of big events. Locally I think there is still room for improvement.

Every time I walk into my office I see my V8 Supercars Championship trophy, and it could almost fit inside a helmet sitting next to it on the shelf.

After all of the effort you put in over a season, you would expect something a bit more substantial and significant.

The Gold Coast event is pretty famous on our tour for the surfboard trophies on the podium, and it is exciting for us to have gotten our hands on a couple over the weekend.


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