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Todd Kelly’s dramatic Supercars start

Former Supercars team owner Todd Kelly had a long sustained career as a driver consisting of 541 starts, 19 wins and 58 podiums, but his first race in 1999 didn’t end well.

A Holden Young Lion member, Kelly stepped up to a part-season in the Supercars Championship after finishing third in the previous year’s Australian Drivers’ Championship.

It wasn’t Kelly’s first start in a Supercar as he undertook the 1998 endurance races with privateer John Faulkner, however his first Bathurst start ended in disaster as the Betta Electrical Holden Commodore was caught out in the infamous pile up at Forrest’s Elbow.

As part of a two-car Holden Young Lions partnering Mark Noske, Kelly made a great start to the relationship by finishing eighth in the opening support race for the Australian Grand Prix, but an incident in the second resulted in enough damage to end his weekend.

The first championship round at Sydney Motorsport Park (or Eastern Creek back then) had a whopping 44 entries attend. Noske edged his junior teammate by 0.7896s to qualify 20th, four places ahead of Kelly.

Stuck in the mid-field shenanigans on the opening lap, 10 places were lost by Kelly before seven were made on the second as he continued to make positions before….

Lap 4, Turn 1, Kelly experienced the worst nightmare for a driver at an ultra-fast corner, a tyre failure.

At 198kmh, the right tyre exploded sending the Commodore careering towards the outside concrete wall, which it hit with major force.

The contact destroyed the right-hand-side corner, while the impact underneath pushed the engine into the firewall. For Kelly, he escaped with just bruising and a swollen groin.

“I don’t know what happened,” Kelly explained to Auto Action post-incident. “It must have been a puncture or something.

“It turned in alright but immediately after I went into Turn 1 the tyre just let go. I had it on full lock and it just went straight on.

“The car hardly even slowed down – it just went straight in.

“It’s terrible. All you can do is sit there and wait. I knew there was no way I was going to stop. It seemed to take ages before it hit the wall. I could have almost undone my belts and jumped out.

“I’ve had a few big ones in racing cars but this would definitely be one of the biggest.

“We only had enough money for here [Eastern Creek] and Adelaide, and now it is basically going to go towards repairing the car.”

Kelly’s Commodore had been driven by illustrious company after it took pole position at Bathurst in 1997 with Mark Skaife behind the wheel, then partnering Peter Brock. The then-two time Australian Touring Car champion used the chassis to finish third in the 1998 title before Kelly took it over.

Holden Young Lions Team Manager Rob Crawford’s declared the Commodore a write off, but reserved confirmation for when it was returned to the team’s Clayton workshop.

“It doesn’t look good but we will get it back to Melbourne, strip it and take it to Dencar and see what they can do with it,” Crawford said.

The Commodore never raced again and has since been restored back to its Bathurst 1997 specification, while Kelly did return for Hidden Valley.

While the Holden Young Lions team was in the wars, the ‘Red Devils’ of the Racing Team took a clean sweep as Skaife took two wins and Lowndes one in what was a season dominated by ‘The General’.

Now, Kelly is helping son Mason’s motorsport endeavours recently entering the Hyundai Excel category racing at Sandown last weekend.