Nissan Motorsport’s major V8 Supercars engine upgrade is a step closer to reality, with a batch of new cylinder heads from North America arriving at the team’s workshop.
After initial struggles to get Nissan’s VK56DE engine up to speed during its debut season in 2013, the team identified the need for changes that were not possible with the production cylinder head.
Following extensive negotiations with the company’s global supply chain, a Nissan casting plant in Mexico was recently halted for the limited run of ‘blank’ V8 Supercars heads to be manufactured.
The Melbourne-based Nissan Motorsport will now set about machining the heads to its own specification before undertaking a dyno testing and development program.
Specification changes will then require homologation in accordance with the category’s cumulative power limit formula.
The entire process is expected to result in a mid-year debut of the upgraded engines which, together with the aerodynamic tweaks rolled out last weekend, are hoped will make the four-car squad a consistent front-running force.
Admitting that the supply process took longer than desired, Nissan Australia CEO Richard Emery says that the contribution of the North American supply chain is a reflection of Nissan Australia’s own increased commitment to the racing operation.
As previously reported, Nissan has upped its investment in the Kelly family owned team this year, which sees it running Michael Caruso’s Altima in factory Nissan Nismo colours for the season.
“Part of the commitment you see this year (from Nissan towards the V8 Supercars team) is about bringing us into the global motorsport fold,” Emery told Speedcafe.com.
“We were a little bit to one side because of the unique category that we’re in, but we’ve kind of grown up over the last couple of years.
“We’ve got support out of Nismo and the organisation and we’re now a key platform in their global motorsport activities.
“That provided us with the impetus to get the work done that needed to be done. Otherwise it was slower than we would have liked it to be.
“But it is a major commitment by them because of what they have had to do during a particularly busy time.
“The plants are currently at production capacity in North America because of the success of a couple of key road cars.”
Emery adds that the increased commitment from Nissan comes with an uplift in performance expectations.
The squad’s only win with Nissan equipment remains at Winton in 2013, while just two podiums were scored across the four-car team last year.
“For me it’s not about setting targets of top fives or podiums or wins, it’s about whether the sport looks at Nissan as underachieving or starting to be a threat,” explained Emery of the season ahead.
“If we’re competitive at each round and people are noticing where we’re at because we’re performing beyond their expectations and we’re starting to throw our muscle around a little bit, that’s what I’m after in 2015.
“In terms of us threatening for a championship or multiple race wins, that still might be a year away.
“We’ve seen two years of gradual development with some disappointing results and now I’m wanting to see our growth accelerate.
“We’ve got a few more development tools to use this year and next year we’d like to go into the season thinking that Nissan are a chance (for the championship).”
Since taking the top job at Nissan Australia last April, Emery has led a concerted effort for the company to make better off-track use of its racing program.
Strengthening engagement with Nissan’s dealer network and customers has already taken place but, according to Emery, building a stronger foothold among V8 Supercars fans will ultimately require improved results.
“There’s a view that would suggest that we’re people’s favourite ‘second team’, so to speak,” he said.
“If you’re a Holden fan and they couldn’t win for whatever reason, you don’t want Ford to win so you’d cheer for us.
“For us to start really gaining momentum for motorsport and our brand, it’ll be about no longer being seen as the second team after Ford or Holden. We need to have our own number one fan base.
“We want to stake a claim there and, of course, to make that happen, there’s got to be on track success.
“We can activate as much as we like, but whether it’s motorsport, football or whatever, you need to see progress in terms of success levels.”