Kelly and Caruso ready for B12hr debuts

THEY MIGHT be familiar with the brand, but Todd Kelly and Michael Caruso will be attempting their first Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour for Nissan in 2017.

While Caruso is familiar with the demands of the team’s iconic Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 thanks to selected Australian GT Championship appearances late last season, the senior Kelly brother will be driving it in anger for the first time this February.

“I’m really excited to race the GT-R at the Bathurst 12 Hour,” said Todd Kelly, the 2005 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 champion.

“The car has been in at our workshop for quite a while now, and every time I walk past it, I always stop and take a second look at it. It’s a beautiful piece of race car. I haven’t driven the car yet but I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to drive it at Bathurst.

“I’m looking forward to working with some new team-mates in the NISMO Athletes. Florian has won the race before and Jann is one of the most exciting young drivers in the world.

“It will also be the first time in a long time that I will just turn up with my helmet and be a race driver. That will be interesting in itself!”

Caruso, who scored his first Virgin Australia Supercars Championship win for Nissan in Darwin last year, was pleased to finally have the chance to tackle the biggest race of the GT year in the iconic GT-R.

“I’m really excited to finally get a crack at the Bathurst 12 Hour,” said Caruso.

“It’s a race that I’ve followed for the past few years, and to go there with the Nissan factory team, I’m extremely motivated to get a top result and I can’t wait to get there.

“Alex and Chiyo are both very accomplished drivers with a lot of experience in the GT-R NISMO GT3s at this track. With our experienced team, I think we have a good mix of knowledge and speed.

“Of course we are going there to win the race. The team has won there before and they know what to do, but the race has never been so competitive so we’ll need to be at our best.”

Former winner Florian Strauss will return to the Mountain, looking to add a second Bathurst 12 Hour crown to his hard-won title from 2015.

“I’m more than happy to come back to the Bathurst 12 Hour with NISMO again. It’s one of my favourite race tracks in the world, not only because I had my biggest success there, but the place, the atmosphere with the fans makes it a spectacular experience,” said Strauss.

“It is the first time that we have entered two factory cars, so that will help collect data in practice and give us the best preparation for the race, and maybe even use different strategies. Bathurst is usually a place that delivers crazy racing and breathtaking finishes.

“Looking at the entry list, it looks like Bathurst 12 Hour is going from strength to strength. There are a lot of good cars and teams that we will have to beat, but in the last two years, our car and team has performed outstanding. I’m really looking forward to achieving another great result.”

The addition of the Nissan drivers to the grid take to 10 the number of former Bathurst 1000 champions on the grid, accounting for a remarkable 30 victories, and 8 former Bathurst 12 Hour winners for a total of 10 victories.