NISSAN, the first manufacturer to have committed to the futureproofed format of the Supercars series, has announced today it will officially quit the sport at the end of this year after just six seasons.
“Nissan has decided to exit the Supercars Championship in order to concentrate on the interests and needs of our current and future customers,” Nissan Australia managing director Stephen Lester said in a brief statement released late this morning.
“We have obviously been talking to the Kellys [Kelly Racing] for some time and making the announcement now suits both parties,” Lester said.
“I’d like to thank Todd and Rick Kelly, Michael Caruso, Simona de Silvestro and everyone at Nissan Motorsport for all of their hard work in the time that Nissan Australia has been involved in Supercars.”
He also thanked Nissan’s motorsport fans, and said the team would “continue to work hard to achieve the best possible results over the course of the season.”
Nissan’s Supercars campaign kicked off after it jumped on board with Kelly Racing in 2013, driven by sweeping changes planned for the Supercars series that would open the sport to a mix of body styles and engines that diverged widely from its longstanding four-door, bent-eight formula.
The team expanded from two to four cars after buying the racing entitlements certificate – a license to go racing in the Supercars championship – from Larry Perkins. It claimed its first victory at Winton that same year, sparking hope the new era of Supercars would become more than just a two-way contest between traditional rivals Ford and Holden.
The shock announcement comes on the back of mounting speculation that Nissan Motorsport would not renew its latest two-year Supercars contract, which is due to be re-drafted at the end of this season. It also comes after the four factory-backed cars, based on the Nissan Altima that is no longer on sale, failed to snare a single Supercars podium, or top 10 points, in 2017.
The current deal was inked by former Nissan Australia managing director Richard Emery, who was pushed out the door late last year. His replacement, the former head of Infiniti Canada, Stephen Lester, is believed to be less interested in committing to motorsport.
The move also comes after a seismic shakeup of Nissan’s Australian showroom, which along with the Altima has also led to the brand dumping the Micra, Pulsar and Maxima passenger cars to concentrate its efforts on its Navara trade ute and growing range of SUVs.
The only traditional Nissan-badged passenger cars still on sale are the 370Z and GT-R coupes, with the second-generation Leaf battery-electric hatchback expected to join the range later this year. If Nissan was to commit to Supercars beyond 2018, it would have to build a car around one of these platforms, the most logical being the GT-R given its halo status.
Nissan has already campaigned the GT-R in Australia, fielding the Nismo GT3 in the Bathurst 12 Hour, a race it won in 2015. However, the Nissan Australia and Nissan Motorsport-backed cars sat out this year’s Bathurst 12 Hour, with the carmaker keeping its options open when asked about re-entering the contest in 2019.
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