Nissan Motorsport team manager Scott Sinclair says that the squad is ‘not panicking’ about its form but acknowledges the need to dig deep in order to improve results.
The Braeside team welcomed experienced American Nick Ollila to the team as technical director this year as part of a renewed development push.
It came off the back of a 2017 season devoid of a podium and yielding a single Armor All Pole Position (Rick Kelly for Hidden Valley’s Saturday race), a formline which has continued into 2018.
Michael Caruso is Nissan Motorsport’s leading driver in the championship in 15th and its only top 10 finisher in the eight races two date with two eight position results at Albert Park and a ninth in Adelaide.
Sinclair pointed out that some of the midfield teams have improved this year and agreed that the new ZB Commodore, which has won seven of eight races thus far, appeared to be a potent vehicle.
He said that the Altimas are also better in 2018 but was not shirking from the need to work for further gains.
“‘Concern’ is not the right word, it is what it is; I can’t control anything that they’re doing,” Sinclair told Speedcafe.com when asked if the early performance from the ZB is a concern.
“We know we’ve got to get faster, we know what we’ve got to work on, and we’ve just got to do it, and that hasn’t changed from the previous years.
“It’s not like we were winning every race last year and now we’re not; we’ve just got to improve.
“We’ve made our cars better this year, there’s no doubt about that, and relative to some of our competitors we are strong, but there are other competitors who have now taken a leap up and our position in the rankings has stayed similar.
“We’ve got to get it better, and we know that and we’re not panicking; we’re not shying away from that fact that we’ve got to improve.
“We know what’s ahead of us, we know where the benchmark is, and we’ve just got to knuckle down and get on with it.”
The championship winning-engineer also noted the “tiny numbers” which separate the field, as demonstrated by Simona de Silvestro’s qualifying performance for Race 7 of the season at Symmons Plains.
De Silvestro missed the top 10 cut-off in combined Friday practice by barely more than 0.03s.
The following day, she could manage a time good enough for only 25th on the grid and went on to finish 21st.
On Sunday, Car #78 started 23rd and finished 21st.
Sinclair attributed to the slump to difficulties with braking.
“Basically (we) just didn’t get the braking balance right, which hurt in qualifying to be honest, and then after that we were playing a bit of catch-up on Saturday.
“Sunday just a bit messy overall, so it wasn’t anything drastically wrong, it was just that the braking wasn’t good for her.
“Then in the race the car was good and she was comfortable with the braking and felt comfortable in the car but the damage was already done so that was probably the story of the weekend really.
“She’s moving forward, the car’s moving forward, but the competition’s just extremely tight, there’s no doubt about that, so if you’re the slightest bit off…
“In her case, on Friday we were comfortable with how it all went and the results showed, and then on Saturday through a couple of circumstances it just sort of didn’t work out for her car and all of a sudden you’re down the back again; it happens as quickly as that.”