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Nissan gets a V8 favour from Uncle Sam

Racing in: Nissan’s mid-sized Altima will make its V8 Supercar racing debut six months ahead of its showroom welcome in Australia.

Altima launch paused in US as Aussies get in for their V8 Supercar bits

Nissan logo4 Sep 2012

NISSAN Australia convinced its American counterpart to interrupt preparations for the United States launch of its all-new, top-selling Altima mid-sized sedan by diverting some engineering parts to the Australian V8 Supercar program now underway in a new $25 million Kelly Racing workshop complex in Melbourne.

Those parts and subsequent shipments have since been arriving in cardboard packaging by the truckload at the Braeside facility where development of cars and V8 engines is already well advanced in preparation for a four-car Altima assault on the 2013 V8 Supercar championship in March next year.

A café – tentatively called Café Altima – merchandise shop and other attractions for race fans are planned for the spectacular racing headquarters, which will be branded as Nissan Motorsport as soon as Kelly Racing’s Holden links are wound up at the end of this season.

A gym for team members, high-tech machine shops, engine dynos, body fabrication facilities and even an in-house decal-cutting workshop for race-car signage are included in the purpose-built facility that was constructed from the ground up by the Kellys – racing brothers Todd and Rick and their parents John and Margaret – who have a family background in light industrial factory construction.

 center imageLeft: V8 Supercar driver Todd Kelly and Nissan Australia managing director Bill Peffer with the prototype of Nissan's V8 Supercar engine.

Kelly Racing director Todd Kelly and Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Bill Peffer today unveiled the first prototype V8 race engine ahead of dynamometer testing and V8 Supercar homologation over the next few weeks.

The all-alloy quad-cam engine – which is far more advanced than the pushrod cast-iron block V8s used by rival Ford and Holden teams – will be restricted to ensure similar power and torque performance for the race track.

Officiated at the event, newly appointed Nissan Motorsport general manager Jeff Fisher – formerly Nissan Australia PR and corporate affairs general manager – revealed that Nissan Australia had persuaded the Nissan North America to hand over some Altima parts that had been earmarked for Altima durability testing in April, interrupting the development program for the car.

Instead, those parts have been used to clad the prototype Altima race car on a new-generation V8 Supercar Car of the Future chassis that will be common for all cars in the category from next season.

“It was a massive favour for us,” Mr Fisher said.

The Altima went on sale in North America in June before smashing its monthly sales record in July when 26,602 vehicles rolled out of showrooms – up 24.7 per cent on the previous July.

Initial production of Altima started at the Smyrna plant, in Tennessee, in May, but a second factory, in Canton, Mississippi, came on stream in June.

Australia is likely to get its right-hand-drive Altima road cars from Thailand or Japan in time for launch in the second half of next year – unusually, about six months after the race debut.

According to a Nissan North America media release, US exports are bound for Canada, Mexico and the Middle East.

The 5.0-litre multi-valve V8 engine to be used in the Nissan V8 Supercars is based on a production engine used in the new Patrol, among other heavy-duty Nissan vehicles, and will not be available in the Altima.

The road car will be powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder similar in concept to the engines in the class-leading Toyota Camry and upcoming Holden Malibu.

Mr Peffer said Nissan was not entering V8 Supercars to “just burn rubber and money”.

He said he was not sure that the old motor racing mantra of “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” was as strong as it once was, but that Nissan was preparing to use the racing association to enhance its brand in Australia.

Mr Peffer declined to disclose Nissan’s investment in the racing venture or say how many years it was committed to the category, saying only that the company was in it for the long term.

He said the venture could lead to Nismo-enhanced cars being sold in Australia, but it was too early to say when and what.

Kelly Racing chairman John Crennan – a founding managing director of Holden Special Vehicles – told GoAuto that while the race team had a dream to build enhanced road cars, perhaps under the Nismo brand, the Nissan race team was absorbing all of Kelly Racing’s time and energy for now.

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