History VA Supercars Championship

Supercars History: Nissan 2013 – 2018

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Rick Kelly in the Jack Daniels Nissan Altima in 2013. Image thanks to Kytabu

The season’s ending Newcastle 500 marks Nissan’s final race as a constructor in Supercars. The marque which dominated in the early 1990’s returned to Supercars in 2013 with the introduction of the New Generation V8 Supercar and departs the series at the end of 2018 never quite having reached the success of the Skyline-GTR. Nevertheless, Nissan have had success along the way, and their support of their factory Supercars program has garnered them fans all across the world. As we prepare for a return to the more traditional Ford vs Holden for 2019, and Kelly Racing running the Altimas as a non-factory backed entry, I’ve looked back at the Nissan’s history in Supercars from 2013 to 2018.

The Car

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The Nissan Altima L33 was revealed to the public in late 2012. Image thanks to Nissan.

Manufactured by Nissan since 1992, the Altima is a continuation of Nissan’s famous Bluebird model which enjoyed a 52-year production run from 1955 – 2007. Nissan campaigned in Supercars with a Fifth Generation Altima, the L33 which was the first car to be homologated for the new-for 2013 regulations.

Engine: Nismo VK56DE 90º V8 

Engine Location: Front, longitudinally mounted 

Displacement: 5,552 cc / 338.8 cu in

Valvetrain: 4 valves / cylinder, DOHC 

Fuel feed: Fuel Injection 

Aspiration: Naturally Aspirated

Drive: RWD

(stats sourced from Nissan.com)

The Nissan Altima will continue to feature on the Supercars grid in 2019 as Kelly Racing (Nissan Motorsport) will continue to run the cars without factory backing.

The History

2013

Nissan’s return to Supercars was met with a fanfare of noise, as the Altimas joined the Mercedes E63 as new cars on the grid. With Todd Kelly, Rick Kelly, Michael Caruso and James Moffatt behind the wheel, Nissan were set for a four-car assault on V8 Supercars with backing from Jack Daniels and Norton 360. Unfortunately, the season proved to be more difficult than anticipated with Rick Kelly the highest-placed finisher in the driver’s championship in 14th.

James Moffat scored the team’s only race win of the season, in a memorable 1-2 finish at Winton Raceway. Moffat led home Norton Hornets teammate Michael Caruso in a historic double podium for Nissan in their first year back in Supercars. The victory wasn’t without controversy, however, as both Moffat’s and Caruso’s Altimas were using a different, new blend of fuel which was eventually outlawed.

Drivers Championship Positions: 

Rick Kelly: 14th

James Moffat: 18th

Michael Caruso: 23rd

Todd Kelly: 25th

2014

Jack Daniels and Norton continued their title sponsorship of Nissan Motorsport into the 2014 season with all four drivers being kept on for another year. 2014 was slightly better for the team, and the Norton Hornets finished 5th in the team’s championship with Jack Daniels Racing (the Kelly brothers) finishing up in 8th. James Moffat and Taz Douglas scored a memorable 2nd place finish in the Bathurst 1000 after crashing, and Michael Caruso and Dean Fiore followed up with a 3rd at Surfers Paradise in the Gold Coast 600.

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After crashing earlier in the race, Moffat and Douglas came home second in the 2014 Bathurst 1000. Image thanks to Getty Images: Robert Cianflone

The two podiums during the endurance season would mark Nissan’s only two visits to the podium all year, but it was a better year for the team who saw Michael Caruso finish a team-high 10th in the driver’s standings after a strong late-season run of form.

Drivers Championship Positions: 

Rick Kelly: 13th

James Moffat: 16th

Michael Caruso: 10th

Todd Kelly: 22nd

2015

Norton’s run as a title sponsor ended prior to 2015, as did Jack Daniel’s coverage of two cars and the four-car Nissan team looked very different in 2015. The Norton-inspired numbers of #36 and #360 for Caruso and Moffat were replaced by #23 and #99, and both featured Nismo/Nissan backing. Carsales replaced Jack Daniels as the title sponsor on Todd Kelly’s car.

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A NISMO/Nissan livery featured on the cars of Moffat and Caruso after the departure of Norton as a title sponsor. Image thanks to Supercars.

With all four drivers retained for another season, 2015 was Nissan’s best year since their return to top-level Australian motorsport with both Rick Kelly and Caruso reaching the podium a total of five times throughout the year. Rick Kelly enjoyed good early and late season form with podiums at Winton, Hidden Valley, Surfers Paradise and Homebush, whilst Caruso finished 3rd at Winton in what was a great weekend for the team. Rick Kelly was Nissan’s highest finisher in the standings in 9th whilst Nissan managed 5th and 6th placed finishes in the team’s standings.

Drivers Championship Positions: 

Rick Kelly: 9th

James Moffat: 18th

Michael Caruso: 12th

Todd Kelly: 17th

2016

It was change afoot at the team in 2016 as James Moffat was replaced by Dale Wood. GB Galvanising joined the team as a title sponsor for Wood’s car whilst Nissan continued to back Caruso’s, Jack Daniels was replaced by Sengled on Rick Kelly’s car and Todd Kelly continued with Carsales. The team were unable to replicate the relative success of 2015, and Michael Caruso scored the teams only podiums with a 2nd place in the Clipsal 500 and a maiden victory for Caruso with Nissan at Hidden Valley in Darwin. Rick Kelly was unable to recreate his strong form of previous years and Todd Kelly had his best season yet for Nissan finishing 14th in the table.

Nissan also ran a fifth Altima as a wildcard entry in the 2016 Bathurst 1000 for Renee Gracie and Simona de Silvestro backed by Harvey Norman, they eventually finished the race in 14th. Nissan finished 7th and 8th in the team’s championship.

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The team dubbed the Harvey Norman Supergirls featuring Gracie and de Silvestro finished 14th in their Bathurst 1000 wildcard entry. Image thanks to Illawarra Mercury.

Drivers Championship Positions: 

Rick Kelly: 13th

Dale Wood: 22nd

Michael Caruso: 10th

Todd Kelly: 14th

2017

It was all change again at Nissan for 2017 as Dale Wood and GB Galvanising left the team and were replaced by Simona de Silvestro and new title sponsor Harvey Norman. A former open-wheel IndyCar driver, de Silvestro became the first full-time female Supercars driver since Price and Brewer in 1998. The Kelly brothers and Michael Caruso remained with the team with the title sponsors of their three cars remaining the same.

2017 would prove to be a tough year for Nissan and their least successful since their return to Supercars in 2013. They failed to score a podium finish in a year dominated by Triple Eight and DJR Team Penske and would finish 6th and 9th in the team’s championship. For the second year running, Michael Caruso was Nissan’s highest placed driver finishing 13th in the standings, his personal lowest finish since 2013.

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2017 was Todd Kelly’s final year as a full-time Supercars driver. Image thanks to PSP Images.

2017 marked the end of Todd Kelly’s career as a Supercars driver as he stepped down after having a racing seat in the series since 1999.

Drivers Championship Positions: 

Rick Kelly: 14th

Simona de Silvestro: 24th

Michael Caruso: 13th

Todd Kelly: 18th

2018 (Season Ongoing)

Todd Kelly was replaced by Andre Heimgartner at Nissan for 2018 and Plus Fitness came onboard as Heimgartner’s title sponsor. Castrol joined forces with Nissan to sponsor Rick Kelly’s Altima, and Caruso saw Drive.com.au join as a title sponsor on the #23. de Silvestro kept NISMO/Nissan and Harvey Norman on her car and later into 2018 Industrial Athlete would take on sponsorship of Caruso’s.

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Michael Caruso at the 2018 Sandown 500. Image thanks to Dirk Klynsmith / LAT Images

Nissan announced their withdrawal from Supercars at the end of 2018 in May of this year after, at the time, just two race wins from five seasons in the sport. Kelly Racing will continue to run the four Altimas without Nissan backing into 2019 with their future beyond next season uncertain. 2018 has been Nissan’s best season since they joined the series, with Rick Kelly scoring four podiums including a win at Winton and Caruso reaching the podium once. With one round of the season left remaining at Newcastle the results aren’t finalised, but Nissan currently sits 7th and 10th in the team’s championship.

Drivers Championship Positions (Ongoing): 

Rick Kelly: 9th

Simona de Silvestro: 24th

Michael Caruso: 17th

Andre Heimgartner: 18th

Nissan leave Supercars having failed to replicate the success they enjoyed in late 80’s and early 90’s. Just three race wins from six seasons represent a meagre return for a team who hoped for so much on their debut in 2013, but Nissan’s commitment to the series and some fantastic liveries have ensured that their legacy in Supercars until they return at least, is left intact. You can’t fault Nissan’s commitment over the last six years, and I also don’t think you can blame them for leaving given their lack of success on-track. It’s been great having them in Supercars, and I’m sure that one day they will return for another shot at replicating their historic success.

What are your thoughts on Nissan ahead of their final two races of their time in Supercars? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook!

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