Supercars drivers Todd Kelly, Dave Reynolds and Michael Caruso met the workers making the steel that plays such a crucial role in the springs of their Supercars, before getting down to the serious business of the first running of the Coates Hire Newcastle 500 Supercars race.
The Coates Hire Newcastle 500 has been labelled a runaway success with more than 190,000 fans flocking to the coastal circuit over the weekend.
It was a weekend for talking suspension – and not just at the track itself. Just prior to the start of racing on Friday, three Supercars drivers swapped their racing overalls and helmets for hi-vis vests and hardhats to take a tour of Liberty OneSteel’s Newcastle Rod Mill to see where the steel comes from that makes up high-performance Supercars springs.
Drivers Todd Kelly and Michael Caruso of factory Nissan Motorsport, David Reynolds of Erebus Motorsport, and Fox Sports’ Russell Ingall all toured the facility with King Springs Managing Director Mark King. There they pressed the flesh with Newcastle Rod Mill employees and watched as steel billets were rolled to make high-quality rod coil. That rod coil is then supplied to King Springs for making into race-ready coil springs.
The visit to the Mill gave the Supercars drivers a fascinating glimpse into how the coil springs are made that keep their cars planted and capable of turning in and out of corners all day long.
Driver Michael Caruso joked that conditions in the Mill were “hot, sweaty and loud,” but he could just as easily have been referring to conditions in the cabin of his own Nissan Nismo Supercar in the heat of battle.
As many as 60-70 per cent of the Supercars teams use the high-performance springs produced by Kings Springs. The company’s requirements for lighter weight springs with more travel for the V8 Supercars led Liberty OneSteel to develop X5K, a specialist higher-stress, high-quality steel 12 years ago.
Liberty OneSteel now supplies King Springs with 300 tonnes of X5K per month, specifically for the performance suspension industry. The springs have proved their worth in competition. Nineteen of the past 30 Bathurst 1000s and 17 of the past 30 V8 supercar Championships were won using King Springs.
Staff at the Rod Mill were all too happy to show the visiting Supercars drivers how high-quality steel is made, not just for King Springs, but for other customers, too. As well as manufacturing steel for the automotive sector, steel produced at the Rod Mill is used by the construction industry and in a wide range of rural and manufacturing applications.
After the site inspection was complete, many of the staff queued to chat with the drivers, request an autograph and nab a selfie. Many of them were no doubt trackside in the days that followed to cheer the drivers on around the streets of Newcastle.
Mark King said he was excited that King Springs-sponsored drivers were able to experience first-hand the process of rolling the steel that goes into the making of his company’s distinctive bright-yellow, high-performance springs – and in the same city hosting the Supercars event.
Steel has played a key role in the development of the city of Newcastle and continues to be a major source of employment in the region. There are 137 people employed at the Newcastle Rod Mill and over 1000 people employed by Liberty OneSteel in Newcastle alone.
“It was great to tour the site and see how the product is manufactured to the exacting standards required to create the steel needed for the King Springs used in today’s high-performance race cars,” King said. “Liberty OneSteel is the only company in Australia able to meet these requirements.”
For Todd Kelly, whose Nissan Motorsports team is sponsored by Liberty OneSteel, the first running of the Coates Hire Newcastle 500 race marked his final race in the Supercars series. Nissan Motorsport paid tribute to Kelly’s long and successful career with a special livery for his Nissan Altima Supercar highlighting his impressive achievements in his 20-year career.
The association between Liberty OneSteel and the Kelly brothers’ Supercars racing team extends back to 2010, when Liberty OneSteel Metalcentre supplied steel for the extension of the team’s racing headquarters and factory. However, Liberty OneSteel’s relationship with the Kelly family goes back many years, as the racing brothers’ father John Kelly’s business Malidot is a long-term Liberty OneSteel customer in Mildura.