Nissan Motorsport co-owner Todd Kelly says his team must ‘push on business as usual’ as it waits for a decision from the Japanese marque on its V8 Supercars future.
Nissan Australia chief executive Richard Emery met with Nismo bosses in Japan last month to discuss the car maker’s strategy for motorsport in Australia beyond 2016.
A decision on whether it will continue in V8 Supercars is yet to be made as the company weighs up budgets, its association with the formerly Kelly Racing branded team and the category’s incoming Gen2 rules.
The discussions come amid a shake-up of Nismo management following the recent shock exit of former global sales chief Darren Cox, who had been the public face of its troubled Le Mans project.
Nissan has endured a largely frustrating first three years in V8 Supercars as its team fights to develop the VK56 V8-powered Altima into a consistently competitive package.
Although clarity on Nissan’s plans may not come until the new year, Kelly says his operation continues to receive positive feedback from the manufacturer and is fully committed to the ongoing development of its Altimas.
“We can’t afford to back anything off not expecting that (Nissan will continue in 2017),” Kelly told Speedcafe.com.
“We’re pushing on business as normal trying to develop the cars and improve every aspect of the team to become more and more competitive.
“At the moment that’s our focus. We’ve certainly had no negative feedback (from Nissan).”
Emery has openly stated that the company’s “due diligence” includes assessing its options outside of the Kelly empire.
With no V8 Supercars squads currently under contract to manufacturers for 2017, Kelly affirms that there are plenty of rivals eager to lure away Nissan’s backing.
“It’s ridiculous, but if you worried about that you wouldn’t get a second of sleep every night,” he said of other teams making approaches to the manufacturer.
“Every second garage down pitlane would be going into our sponsors and Nissan’s office explaining why they’re better than us and why they’d do this or that, it’s just the nature of motorsport.
“I think Nissan have been around long enough, Richard and Mitchell (Wiley, Nissan motorsport and sponsorship marketing manager) are pretty switched on, they know how the pitlane operates.
“I can guarantee you that there’s plenty of it going on, but I’m not overly concerned with that.”
Nissan Motorsport has scored four podiums during the opening 30 races of this year’s season, with its top driver Rick Kelly 11th in points.
The squad debuted a long-awaited new cylinder head at Sandown in September, but it has failed to bring an instant improvement in results.
Kelly stresses that the rest of the engine must now be optimised around the new head, which was implemented after the standard unit’s development limits were reached midway through 2013.
“There’s a huge amount of potential in the (new) head, we haven’t even scraped the edges of it yet,” enthused Kelly.
“We kind of rushed to get the whole thing together and there’s really no way known until we get further into the program how far we can go with it.
“But we were completely at the end of the potential of the previous head and now we’re really at the start of what we can do with the new head.
“There’s a massive amount to come, for sure.”
Kelly meanwhile confirmed that the team is in conversations with Nismo about the suitability of its V6 twin-turbo engine to V8 Supercars’ Gen2 guidelines.
The former Bathurst winner says his team is not against change, but warns that a long lead-time will be needed to ensure that there is no repeat of its struggles to get the current engine competitive.
“To do that you need a reasonable amount of time and testing, including in-car testing, to make sure the engine does what we hope,” he said of moving to the V6 turbo.
“The category is so close now, you can’t afford to spend another year in development. You need to be doing that while you race your current equipment.
“That’s the consideration for the team, but if we can make that happen then I’m certainly not opposed to change by any means.”