So a decision on Nissan’s continued involvement in V8SC is expected by the end of March according to Saturday’s news on v8supercars.com, and with Nissan’s contract with Kelly Racing up at the end of 2016, despite the obvious difficulties with the Altima, it would be an incredible shame if Nissan followed Ford out of V8SC.
Gen2’s arrival in 2017 will open up a huge range of options for manufacturers, and there’s no doubt in my mind that in the current motorsport climate, Gen2 is the right way to go. As the report states, a change of engine or body shape is only optional with Gen2, and whilst there’s been a lot of speculation about which body/engine combo’s might be showing an interest (I’m talking about Prodrive/Ford/Mustang – although Ford have left this dead in the water) I still believe the Altima has some potential, although 2016 is almost certainly judgement day for the Altima and Kelly Racing.
Developing the Altima, and V8 VK56DE engine from scratch is no easy task, and after two years of limited success, the tail end of 2015 showed us glimpses of what could be achieved by Nissan in the right circumstances. Success at top level motorsport doesn’t come overnight, just look at how Ford struggled on their return to Endurance racing at the Rolex 24h this weekend past. Success for the Ford and Nissan isn’t going to come easily ( if the Ford GT wins the GTLM class at LeMans this year I’ll eat my hat), and even jumping into the new car of future regulations, Nissan were already at a disadvantage, competing against Holden and Ford who between them had over 20 years of V8SC experience.
People have been quick to criticise Nissan (sometimes myself included) for their lack of success since 2013, however I can’t be the only one thinking they are on the verge of breaking into the top five/ten on a regular basis? Podiums at the Gold Coast and Bathurst in the last two seasons showed that with the right luck they can compete with, and beat 888 and PRA, and if they have managed to improve their package over the winter as much as they did throughout mid-late 2015, then I really do hope to see them closer to the front come Clipsal.
Nissan Australia’s managing director Richard Emery was refreshingly positive in his statement regarding Nissan’s future in V8SC, stating …..
“when we did start getting podiums and things at the end of last year that we could measure it going up and up and up.”
If Nissan can continue their form into 2016 then Kelly Racing can give the Nissan board back in Japan every reason to continue their support into Gen2. 2017 is shaping up to be a huge unknown for V8SC, and potentially the year in which the playing field could be leveled, and the current pecking order turned on it’s head, V8SC would be a poorer place with just two manufacturers ringing in the new rules.
For me, speaking as a huge motorsport fan, the presence of a manufacturer in motorsport does their brand a whole lot of good in my eyes, and I remember reading a quote by Emery in a report I read over the weekend..
“It’s not just about winning, it’s also about brand loyalty”
And I don’t think this could be more true. Yes, Nissan haven’t had the greatest levels of success since 2013, with just one race win and a handful of podiums appearing on the outside as a meagre reward for such a massive investment. However I know in my eyes, that their continued investment in the sport, even when results haven’t fallen their way has made me warm to the Nissan brand, so much so that I would now considering purchasing one of their cars over a Ford (student debts permitting!). And that brings us full circle to the reasons why manufacturers go motor racing in the first place, to sell cars.
And although I truly hope Nissan continue into Gen2, and more teams obtain factory backing, the Nissan board over in Japan can rest assured that although their four cars haven’t tasted too much champagne (yet), their foray into V8SC can be considered a significant success.