13 May 2023 | General

Kelly claims thrilling opening race

Owen Kelly has picked up his first National Trans Am Series race win for 2023 after a thrilling opening race at Phillip Island.

After qualifying in second place behind the in-form James Moffat, Kelly held position off the line and maintained second place through the opening stages of the race.

Meanwhile, the returning Nash Morris was on a mission as he picked up four places in the opening five laps to find himself in fifth place, whilst Lochie Dalton and Brett Holdsworth battled it out for podium places up ahead.

In an effort to make up for valuable points he missed in the opening round, Ben Grice fought hard but lost positions after briefly losing control of the car – eventually surrendering sixth place to the fastest driver on track in Morris.

At the front of the pack, Moffat was looking comfortable but the race was then flipped upside down after a mechanical black-flag forced him into an unplanned pit-stop – ending any chance of continuing his run of winning form.

As a result, the lead changed hands and Kelly had a comfortable grasp on the race, but behind, the battle for podium places continued to heat up with Holdsworth, Dalton and Morris alternating places all while putting on a fantastic show for the punters.

The podium battle went right down to the final laps, where Dalton became the second driver to fall victim to the mechanical black-flag – promoting Morris into second place and Holdsworth into third at the completion of race one.

Following his maiden win, Kelly was happy to take the first win of the weekend, and had his team to thank for their efforts in producing such a fast car.

“I’ve got to thank my guys, the car was good,” Kelly said.

“It was going to be hard to beat Moff, but you have got to take the good with the bad.”

Despite not taking out the win, Morris was arguably driver of the day and was pleased with his result.

“It was pretty good, the car was very fast, we struggled a bit in practice and qualifying but the race is where it matters,” Morris added.

“There was obviously a bit of luck involved, but we have all had bad luck with our good so it’s all good fun.”

The National Trans Am Series will take the track again on Sunday as they gear up for their first of two races at 10:55am AEST.