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Nissan to debut all-new car in V8 Supercars

On the grid: Rick (left) and Todd Kelly will drive an all-new Nissan sedan - not the GT-R shown with them here - in V8 Supercars from 2013.

Nissan’s still-secret American-built sedan to take on local heroes Holden and Ford

Nissan logo9 Feb 2012

NISSAN will use its entry into Australia’s V8 Supercar Championship to launch an all-new American-built large sedan on the local market in 2013.

And the long-term race deal with Melbourne-based Kelly Racing for the newly created Nissan Motorsport Australia might be just the starting point for the Nissan-Kelly relationship, with both parties set to discuss a special vehicles road car program, most likely under Nissan’s famed NISMO banner.

Racing brothers Todd and Rick Kelly and their parents, John and Marg, have included facilities for a special vehicles factory in their state-of-the-art Braeside facility, in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs.

Also, chairman of Kelly Racing is former managing director of Holden Special Vehicles John Crennan, who built Australia’s leading specialty car business from scratch with former British racing champion Tom Walkinshaw.

The heads of agreement for the Nissan-Kelly deal were signed today in readiness for the racing program to kick off next season, using a new unnamed Nissan sedan that is set to be announced globally within months.

The race variant will be powered by a Nissan V8 engine, prepared in Kelly Racing’s own workshops that just yesterday took delivery of several million dollars worth of machinery.

 center imageLeft: Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Dan Thompson. Below: Group A Skyline from the late 1980s and R32 'Godzilla' from the 1991 Australian Touring Car Championship.

The arrival of Nissan in V8 Supercars is set to shake up the cosy two-brand series that has been a two-horse race between Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon from its inception in the 1990s.

But the move has been welcomed by Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux who commented: “Bring it on!” Todd and Rick Kelly and contracted drivers Greg Murphy and Karl Reindler will continue to drive Holden Commodores in this year’s series, while a special team assembled by the Kellys will work separately on the development of the Nissan race cars in a secure facility, away from the day-to-day racing operation.

A fourth car manufacturer – thought to be Chrysler – is also set to sign up to join the series.

Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Dan Thompson said the new car would be launched in Australia in 2013, with the company’s new V8 Supercar involvement playing a major role in generating excitement about the new product.

Mr Thompson declined to say how much Nissan was spending on the racing deal, saying only that it would be “a significant investment” and a long-term strategy.

“These things don’t happen overnight,” he said. “We plan to be involved for many, many years.” The car that will form the basis of the race car is most likely the Nissan Maxima replacement that Mr Thompson disclosed to GoAuto at the recent North American International Motor Show in Detroit.

This all-new model is expected to use the Nissan-Renault Alliance’s large car platform, that will underpin the next Altima – Nissan’s best-selling car in the United States.

Mr Thompson said the engine would be chosen from “one of several” production powerplants available in the Nissan stable, reworked for V8 racing for the new Car of the Future rules developed under the guidance of former racing champion and now V8 Supercars Commission chairman Mark Skaife.

All brands of V8 Supercars will share common underpinnings in the new format, as well as a rear-mounted transaxle gearbox and other components, in an effort to drive down cost and make it viable for brands other than Holden and Ford to get involved.

The new regulations allow for a variety of engines, with ways of restricting power so that sophisticated multi-cam alloy-block units – such as the engine being considered by Nissan – will match up against the traditional cast-iron-block push-rod valve V8s used by both Ford and Holden.

Contrary to popular belief, the Holden and Ford V8s are not based on the units used in either Holden or Ford Performance Vehicles cars, but bespoke race V8s from the US.

Nissan was a dedicated competitor in the Australian Touring Car Series – the forerunner to the V8 series – winning thee Australian titles with drivers Jim Richards and Mark Skaife from 1990.

The all-wheel-drive turbo-charged Nissan GT-R race cars – nicknamed Godzilla – all took Richards and Skaife to two successive Bathurst wins.

Mr Thompson said the new race program was a local initiative, but that Nissan in Japan would lend support in engineering and technical help.

The Nissan involvement in the V8 series has been helped by a planned international expansion to the US next year, where a race is planned is planned in Austin, Texas.

The new Nissan car will also be sold in North America, making the vehicle easily identifiable to race fans.

And if Chrysler joins the series as rumoured with its 300C, that will make another US car in the field.

Asked if Nissan was contemplating a special vehicles joint venture with Kelly Racing, Mr Thomson said: “Certainly, we haven’t had discussions at this stage. Of course with Nissan’s investment into NISMO, certainly in recent times, that is probably the avenue we would look at.

“That will probably be a good year-plus down the road before we tackle it.” Todd Kelly told GoAuto that Kelly Racing would love to be involved with NISMO, but that the race program would be the first consideration.

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