x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Disaster-ravaged Queensland gets support from Australian V8 drivers

In a show of support for the state, the V8 Supercars Championship drivers Rick and Todd Kelliy will be in cars carrying the name Queensland when they race at Yas Marina Circuit this afternoon.

Those unfamiliar with the V8 Supercars Championship will probably notice nothing unusual about the two black Holden VE Commodores that take to the track at Yas Marina Circuit today.

Yet, for around half a million fanatical supporters who reportedly plan to watch the first race live on television in Australia, there will be a glaring modification to the cars they follow throughout the 14-race season.

Each of the Commodores - an Australian vehicle similar to a Mitsubishi Lumina - will this weekend be branded with the word "Queensland" in tribute to those caught up in the deadly flooding that hit the north-eastern Australian state.

The team's regular sponsor, Jack Daniel's, has sacrificed its prominent signage for the three-day event while Brown-Forman, the owners of the brand, donated AU$100,000 (Dh368,358) to the cause last month.

The regular sponsor's branding is usually removed from the cars for the Middle East races, with "Jack Lives Here" having appeared in previous seasons.

This year, however, brothers Todd and Rick Kelly have decided to use the opportunity to show their support for the victims of the floods in south-east Queensland and the cyclone that devastated the northern part of the state.

"Queensland has been through a tough time, not only with the floods, but with the cyclone ripping through there, too," said Rick, who at 28 years-old is the younger of the two brothers.

"The feedback we have got from the Queenslanders has been outstanding.

"We didn't expect that at all; we just wanted to show our support and try to get as many donations to the cause as possible and so far that has been very good. Now we hope to top it all off with a podium over the weekend."

Jack Daniel's Racing, who have also changed their name to Kelly Racing for the weekend out of respect for racing in a Muslim country, will face tough competition from the likes of James Courtney, the reigning V8 Supercars champion, and Jamie Whincup, the Team Vodafone driver who won both Abu Dhabi races last season.

"Abu Dhabi is one of the richest tracks in the world," Whincup said. "It's like a billiards table; there's not a ripple or bump in the whole place."

Rick Kelly, who finished fourth last year at Yas and eighth in the overall standings, admits that while he would love to predict a higher-placed finish in this evening's first of two rounds, the team finds itself in a state of the unknown.

"With new tyres and new cars and a lot of drivers shifting around, it is hard to know where we will be placed this year," said Rick, who won the V8 Supercars championship in 2008 with his former team, Toll HSV Dealer.

"You would think we would be around fourth just from last year, but the cars have changed so much and the teams have changed we just have to hope we are at least fourth.

"But it's going to be tough to finish that high up."