Rick Kelly is an Australian racing driver who won the V8 Supercars Championship title in 2006. He debuted in the V8SC in 2001, that was also the year when he won the Australian Drivers' Championship. Rick triumphed at Bathurst 1000 two times, in 2003 and 2004, becoming the youngest ever winner of the famous Australian race.
He currently drives for the family team Kelly Racing. The team was using Nissan Altimas from 2013 to 2019 and then switched to Ford Mustang in 2020.
Champion in his only second season of racing
Rick Kelly was born on January 17, 1983, in Mildura, Victoria. He started racing in 2000 in the Australian Formula Ford Championship, immediately gained some success, finishing as the championship runner-up. After four wins and seven podiums in 16 races, Rick had only one point less than champion Luke Youlden.
In his second year of competition, Rick joined Birrana Racing in the Australian Drivers' Championship, to drive the #2 Reynard 94D-Holden under the banner of Holden Young Lions. He dominantly took the title, winning twelve of 16 races and finished 151 points ahead of runner-up Christian Murchison, which was the biggest points margin in a history of the competition.
V8 Supercars debut in 2001
In August 2001, Rick debuted in the V8 Supercars Championship, joining Nathan Pretty in the #15 K-Mart's Holden at Queensland 500 race. The debut was disappointing, as they retired on the opening lap. The duo was much more successful two months later, at Bathurst 1000, finishing 14th. Rick had the first race as a sole contestant in the last round of the championship, at the Sandown International Raceway in Melbourne. His brother Todd won the round, Rick finished 21st.
First full V8SC season with Holden Young Lions
The season 2002 was Rick's first full season in the V8 Supercars Championship. He was driving the #02 Holden VX Commodore for the Holden Young Lions team, the branch of the factory-backed Holden Racing Team. He reached his first podium in November, finishing third in the third race at Pukehoke Park Raceway, that was won by Todd Kelly. At Bathurst 1000, Rick Kelly and Nathan Pretty finished fourth. At the end of the season, Rick was 16th in the points.
Rick Kelly was the youngest ever winner of Bathurst 1000
In 2003, Rick changed the team and joined K-Mart Racing to drive the #15 Holden. The maiden V8SC victory came in the biggest of all races, the Bathurst 1000. Rick was the co-driver of Greg Murphy in the #51 Holden. It was third Bathurst victory for Murphy. Rick was twenty and a half years old, so he became the youngest ever driver to win the famous Australian race.
In the rest of the season, Rick had one more podium, finishing third at Sandown 500, again as a co-driver of Greg Murphy. At the end of the season, Rick was 8th in the points.
Back-to-back victory at Bathurst 1000
In 2004, Rick was victorious four times, including repeated victory at Bathurst 1000, alongside Greg Murphy in the #15 Holden VY Commodore. Prior to that, Rick scored two wins alone, at Eastern Creek Raceway and Hidden Valley Raceway. The fourth win of the season was at the Tasmanian Symmons Plains Raceway. In the championship standings, Rick was 6th.
In 2005, Rick stayed in the #15 Holden, but he was driving for the renamed HSV Dealer Team, co-owned by his parents John and Margaret Kelly. Rick missed to score any victory and finished 8th in the points. He reached only four podiums. At Bathurst 1000, Rick and Garth Tander finished 16th, but another Kelly brother won the race. The winners were Todd Kelly and Mark Skaife.
2006 V8 Supercars champion after a controversial last race
In 2006, Rick became the champion. During the season, he won only one individual race (at Surfers Paradise) but he didn't win any round. His biggest rival was Craig Lowndes, who was the winner in four rounds (five individual wins). They came to the final round, at Phillip Island, with Kelly's advantage of seven points. The championship battle ended with a controversial crash in the last race, in which both Kelly brothers and Lowndes were involved. Lowndes finished 29th (of 30) in the race, Rick Kelly was 18th and he took his only championship title.
The newly crowned champion spent two more seasons driving for the HSV Dealer Team, scoring two wins in 2007 and only one win in 2008. In 2007, Rick was fourth in the points, a year later he finished seventh. The season 2007 was significant because the completely new Holden VE Commodore was used.
Kelly Racing team was formed in 2009
The season 2009 was the milestone year for the Kelly family, as John and Margaret Kelly parted ways with longstanding partner Tom Walkinshaw and formed their own team. Both Kelly brothers were in the team, Todd in the #7 car, Rick in the #15 car, sponsored by Jack Daniel's.
Without winning anything, with just two podiums, both at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, Rick finished 8th in the points at the end of 2009 season. A year later, he was eighth again, scoring only one podium, in the last round at Sydney's Homebush street circuit.
2011 - first win for the family team
The winless streak finished in April 2011, in the Hamilton 400 race at New Zealand. It was the first victory for Kelly Racing. Later in the season, Rick won two more times, at Hidden Valley and Sandown, to finish sixth in the points.
Another season without winning anything followed in 2012. It was Rick's worst season since his debut, as he didn't score either one podium and finished 14th in the points. His best result was 5th place at Hamilton street circuit.
2013 - Kelly Racing became Nissan Motorsport Australia
The season 2013 saw the introduction of the New Generation V8 Supercars. Among those cars were also new manufacturers Nissan and Mercedes. Kelly Racing switched to the Japanese marque and changed the name to Nissan Motorsport Australia. The team prepared four Nissan Altimas, with Kelly brothers still in the #7 and #15 cars. The other two drivers were James Moffat and Michael Caruso.
Rick Kelly finished 14th in the points for the second year in a row, again without wins and podiums. At Winton 360 race Kelly Racing scored a historic success, taking a 1-2 victory for Nissan Altimas, with Moffat and Caruso driving. Rick Kelly wasn't in the mood for the whole season, his best result was fifth place at Hidden Valley.
Four podiums with Nissan Altima
In the 2014 season, the whole team was without victories. Rick's best result was again fifth place, in three races, to finish 13th in the points. An improvement followed in 2015 when Rick scored four podiums driving #15 Nissan Altima.
He took the second place at Winton Raceway and in the second race of the Gold Coast 600 at Surfers Paradise. Rick added third place finished at Hidden Valley and Sydney and placed himself in the 9th place at the end of the season.
Second place at 2016 Bathurst 12 Hour race
The season 2016 started with Rick's success outside the V8 Supercars Championship. He joined the Nissan Athlete Global Team in the Bathurst 12 Hour race. Together with Katsumasa Chiyo and Florian Strauss, Kelly was driving the #1 Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 and they finished second overall, just 1.452 seconds behind the winners in the Bentley.
In the 2016 V8 Supercars season, he missed podiums and wins, finishing 13th in the final standings with #15 Nissan Altima. At 2016 Bathurst 1000, he was sharing the car with Russel Ingall. They didn't finish the race because Rick crashed out on lap 156. In 2017, another year without wins, Rick finished 14th in the final standings.
Maiden victory with Nissan at Winton Raceway in 2018
In May 2018, Rick Kelly scored his first Supercars victory at the wheel of a Nissan Altima, triumphing at in the first race of the sixth round at Winton Motor Raceway. He added two more podiums to his account, finishing eighth in the championship points.
The season 2019 was the last with Nissan. Rick was far from the top and he finished just 17th in the final standings.
Switching to Ford Mustang in the 2020 Supercars season
For the 2020 Supercars season, Kelly Racing switched to Ford Mustang, retaining Rick as main driver.