Jacques Villeneuve is heading 'Down Under'!

One of the most exciting news items in the V8 Supercars Championship has broken overnight, with the Kelly Racing outfit announcing that Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve will drive its #51 Pepsi Max Crew Holden Commodore at the next race, the Sucrogen 400 at Townsville.

The French-Canadian, who claimed the Formula 1 championship crown in 1997 with Williams, will become the latest driver to replace Greg Murphy, who continues his recovery from back surgery.

Villeneuve is no stranger to the V8 Supercars landscape, having partnered Paul Dumbrell in his Bottle-O Racing Ford Falcon at the 2010 ArmorAll Gold Coast 600 (pictured below left). The 41-year-old has made no secret of his desire to race in the championship full-time, if the opportunity came around.

“When this opportunity came up only one week ago, the stars all aligned and thankfully my commitments with the NASCAR Nationwide Penske Team in America and Porsche Super Car Events in Europe allowed me to grab the Pepsi Max Crew seat for the Townsville race in an instant,” Villeneuve said.

Villeneuve made his V8 Supercars debut at the ArmorAll Gold Coast 600 in 2010“V8 Supercars is a spectacular race series and I had a great experience on the Gold Coast back in October 2010.

“I have checked out the whole Pepsi Max Crew Graffiti concept and it looks wild.”

The team has indicated that it may, time permitting, create a special livery to commemorate Villeneuve’s appearance on the grid.

“[That] will be cool,” Villeneuve added. “[But] like all drivers, I am planning to first and foremost be competitive in the car as quickly as possible. Your championship is world class and I will be thrilled to do this Townsville race.”

Villeneuve replaces the team’s endurance co-driver David Russell, who filled in for Murphy at last weekend’s SkyCity Triple Crown at Darwin. Russell failed to collect any championship points, retiring from both races.

Villeneuve’s drive, at this stage, is only for Townsville. Kelly Racing has made no further announcement on who will be piloting the #51 entry for the following events at Queensland Raceway (4-5 August) and Sydney Motorsport Park (25-26 August) while Murphy’s recovery continues.

Nonetheless, the team is thrilled to have a driver of Villeneuve’s profile on board.

“It’s not every day a decorated driver of Jacques calibre walks through your doors,” team co-owner/driver Rick Kelly said.

“His achievements at the highest possible levels of global Motorsport are huge. JVs upcoming drive with us is a win for everyone … all our staff, the sport, the V8 Supercars fan base in far North Queensland, and of course PepsiCo who have had a tough year with Greg’s unfortunate back injuries disrupting their marketing programs.

“His driving and technical capabilities are sound and I have no doubt he will be quickly on the pace.”

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.