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Exclusive: Nissan to race truck V8 in Oz

Super truck: Nissan's full-sized pick-up truck, the Titan, will supply the base engine to be used by Nissan's V8 Supercar in Australia.

Big V8 from Nissan Titan pick-up to power Kelly Racing's Nissan V8 Supercar

Nissan logo5 Mar 2012

NISSAN’S upcoming V8 Supercar will be powered by a race-modified 5.6-litre V8 truck engine, according to the Nissan motorsport boss who signed off on the project.

Nissan Motor Company corporate vice-president of global motorsport Simon Sproule said the racing version of the V8 used in the American-built Nissan Titan pick-up truck and its SUV versions, the Nissan Pathfinder and Infiniti QX55, would power the V8 Supercar to be built by Melbourne-based Kelly Racing.

Speaking to GoAuto in England while on his way to the Geneva motor show, Mr Sproule said the V8 – known within Nissan as VK56DE – was already used in motorsport in series such as Japan’s Super GT, in which it has been run in 4.5-litre guise in a highly modified Nissan GT-R, and – earlier – a race-going 350Z.

Prepared by Nissan’s motor racing arm, Nismo, the engine will no doubt be scaled back from the 5.6-litre production size to match the 5.0-litre V8s of the Ford and Holden entries in the homegrown racing series.

 center imageLeft: Nissan/Infiniti V8 engine. Below: Infiniti QX55 and Nissan Titan.

Mr Sproule declined to divulge which Nissan model would run the engine in V8 Supercars, saying he was aware the vehicle was yet to be revealed.

Most pundits believe it will be a version of the American Altima mid-sized sedan that will be revealed at the New York motor show in April.

Nissan Australia has already confirmed that the Altima will come to Australia, with Nissan’s factories in North America expected to begin supplying the vehicle for this market next year.

Former Nissan Australia CEO Dan Thompson confirmed that V8 Supercars would be used to help launch the new model in Australia in 2013.

In GT racing form, the Titan V8 produces about 600 horsepower (450kW) – slightly under V8 Supercar level – but no doubt can be lifted to match the Chevrolet and Ford engines used by rivals.

Unlike the pushrod valve, cast-iron block, two-valve V8s currently used, the Nissan engine is a modern four-valve, double-overhead camshaft alloy-block design, but V8 Supercar’s new ‘Car of the Future’ rules allow for such engines, as long as they match the performance of existing powertrains.

In the Titan pick-up, the Tennessee-built production V8 produces 277kW of power and 533Nm of torque.

This is less than another V8 in the Nissan family, the 287kW 5.0-litre VK50VE V8 bound for Australia in the Infiniti FX50S crossover from August.

This engine would have been considered for race duty by Nissan and Kelly Racing, but as the other V8 is already has track time and lots of development by Nismo, it was a no-brainer.

Mr Sproule – an Englishman based at Nissan’s Yokohama world headquarters – was effusive in his praise for the V8 Supercar project and its potential for Nissan in Australia.

He said that while the Renault-Nissan Alliance was heavily involved in Formula One, including the reigning champion Red Bull Racing team where the engine is branded Infiniti, he said the company was also interested in motorsport at a regional level, including V8 Supercars.

Mr Sproule said Nissan would not have become involved if the business case did not stack up.

“The business case absolutely stacks up,” he said.

Mr Sproule said he had been impressed by the enthusiasm of Nissan Australia for the project, saying the company would fund the program by trimming other areas of expenditure.

He said it was too early to say if Kelly Racing – headed by John and Margaret Kelly and their racing sons Todd and Rick – would extend their involvement with Nissan to building road-going modified Nissan special vehicles under Nismo branding.

“They would need to put a business case for that,” he said. “Right now, we would like them to focus on getting the race car ready.” The Nissan race car will be prepared in a separate facility in Melbourne this year while the Kelly team gets on with racing its current Jack Daniels V8 Commodores.

The Nissan V8 Supercars need to be ready for the first round of the 2013 series in 12 months’ time.

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