News - Nissan
Nissan ends Supercars commitment
Kelly Racing team to continue with Altimas next year as Nissan pulls factory support
15 May 2018
By TUNG NGUYEN
NISSAN Australia will exit the Supercars Championship at the end of this year’s season, after six years of racing since joining the series in 2013 with its now-discontinued Altima sedan in a partnership with Kelly Racing that was rebranded Nissan Motorsport.
Speaking to journalists at the announcement, Nissan Australia managing director Stephen Lester said the choice to pull out was not due to finances or resources, but a realignment of the company’s focus.
“Strategies have changed, and our focus has shifted to other priorities, in particular EVs (electric vehicles), SUVs and Nissan Intelligent mobility,” he said.
“We took a long time to come to this decision … it wasn’t an easy decision to come to, the reality was that, since my arrival, we’ve taken stock of the market and what the core priorities of the business will be, what the opportunities will look like going forward, and together as an executive team we made the decision.”
Nissan Australia dropped its Altima mid-size sedan, along with its Pulsar small sedan, in April last year, leaving only the Leaf all-electric hatchback, as well as the 370Z and GT-R sportscars as its sole passenger car offerings.
However, Mr Lester revealed that the Japanese car-maker never considered either of its sports coupes for the Supercars racing series – unlike Ford which recently announced that the two-door Mustang will return to racing next year – but said Nissan Australia was still committed to the go-fast models.
“At this point, we’ve made no plans to consider other vehicles for racing in Supercars,” he said.
“It was never a point that we were entertaining on the table from our side … I don’t see the alignment of GT-R to the Supercar series.
“I really don’t think that this change changes any way the traditional DNA of Nissan here, I mean this is a very sporty brand, always has been, and for the foreseeable future – and I can probably see as far into the future as far as product is concerned as anyone here in Australia – it is very clear that we are going to continue in that vein as well.”
Mr Lester did not rule out the possibility of Nissan supporting other local racing series such as the Australia GT Championship, but said the decision on motorsport activity would be made on a “case-by-case scenario”.
“The reality is that Supercars is a terrific local series, but it is not the only series in the country,” he said.
“Motorsport has always been a part of the history and DNA of the Nissan brand, and we will entertain and look at other commercially viable opportunities that meet the needs of the brand, of our customers, going forward.
“I think over the past few years, we extracted a lot of benefit from the sponsorship and the partnership for our customers, and it allowed us to explore the motorsport dimension of the brand as we went forward.
“It doesn’t mean that (Nissan will leave all Australian motorsport disciplines) definitively. We will look at all opportunities to go racing and evaluate those on a case-by-case scenario."
Although it is unclear if the Nissan Motorsport team will revert to its Kelly Racing moniker after the end of the 2018 season, co-owner and former driver Todd Kelly has confirmed the outfit will field the Altimas in next year’s competition.
“It’s business as usual for us in 2019 as we continue to race the Altima next year,” he said.
“We’re extremely proud of the work we’ve achieved in designing the Altima racecar and a road car based engine for competition in this category,” he said. “This announcement won’t slow our development as we continue to push further up the grid.
“We’ve got an extremely capable group of people and one of the best facilities in the country in terms of design and production. The next phase will be an exciting one.”
Currently, four Nissan Altimas compete in the Supercars Championship in Castrol Racing, Plus Fitness Racing, Drive Racing and Team Harvey Norman liveries.
Mr Lester called Nissan’s return to the Supercars series from 2013 a “success”, despite just two podium finishes to date.
“Over this time we have forged a particularly strong relationship with the team at Nissan Motorsport, and in particular Todd and Rick Kelly, as well as all who have driven for the team over the last few years,” he said.
“The marketing and activation opportunity, plus the promotion to the Nissan brand to a wider audience have led to very much success with this partnership.
“We will exit as factory supporter for the Supercars series, we will do everything as a good partner for the Kellys to support, whether it’s through parts or otherwise, but we will not be actively engaged with the V8 Supercars series from a Nissan perspective.”
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