Two-time Bathurst winner Rick Kelly has become an instant fan of the deep south after his visit this week to promote next year's ITM 500 Auckland V8 Supercars event at Pukekohe.
Kelly, who won the V8 Supercars Championship in 2006, is one of four drivers used on the South Island Road Show, which wrapped up in Invercargill yesterday.
It is the 30-year-old's first time in the South Island, including his first look at Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell.
"I love racing in New Zealand. I really enjoy Pukekohe, where we have had success in the past, and the new track changes are great," Kelly said.
"New Zealand is a huge part of V8 Supercars, and for me, too, because in my early years I had success in Bathurst driving with Greg Murphy. I was blown away with the new track at Cromwell and just loved coming to talk to fans in Southland, who are really passionate about our sport."
Kelly and his brother Todd own and drive for their own Jack Daniel's Racing team, and this year pioneered the Nissan Altima into the V8 Supercars Championship.
"It's been challenging to get up to speed with Holden and Ford, that have been in the category for so long, but we have loved the challenge and believe we are on track with Nissan to be really competitive next year."
Kelly also took time to check out the original Indian of Burt Munro in Invercargill.
The ITM 500 runs for an extended four days over Anzac weekend, from April 24 to 28, with the RSA as the official charity of the event.
- The Southland Times