Nissan has announced it will take on Ford and Holden in next year's V8 Supercars Championship, becoming the first new manufacturer to confirm its entry into the sport under its new Car of the Future regulations.
The Japanese car giant will link up with current Holden team Kelly Racing, to field four factory entries with the full support of the NISMO Nissan Motorsport organisation, rebranding to Nissan Motorsport from 2013.
Billed as “one of the most significant announcements in the history of the sport” the partnership sees the return of Nissan to the top form of touring car racing in Australia after an absence of twenty years and signals the end of the Holden/Ford duopoly that has defined the sport for the last two decades.
The Car of the Future (CoTF) program was unveiled two years ago with an aim to cutting running costs and encouraging other marques to compete, in turn broadening fan and sponsor appeal.
Nissan last ran a factory team with Gibson Motorsport and four-wheel drive Nissan Skyline GT-Rs in 1992, claiming the Australian Touring Car Championship with Mark Skaife and the Bathurst 1000 with Skaife and Jim Richards.
The model and engine package that the team will use is still to be announced, although the company confirmed that it will use an 'all-new' sedan model.
“This opens up a whole new chapter for V8 Supercars,” says Skaife, now V8 Supercars Commission Chairman.
“The sport and the brand have been so successful over such a long period of time with today's news reinforcing the direction of the business, coupled with imminent international expansion to multiple destinations globally.
“Nissan has clearly acknowledged V8 Supercars as a major component of their future plans within the Australian car market and motorsport internationally. V8 Supercars will deliver on their expectations.
“There is no doubting the entry of more manufacturers now that Nissan has taken the first step to recognize what the relationship will do for their brand.”
Nissan Australia managing director Dan Thompson said that the V8 Supercars program will play an vital role in the company's future in the country.
“We plan to use our presence in the series to strengthen our passenger car credentials in Australia,” Thompson said.
“Nissan believes that, alongside Ford and Holden, we possess the most convincing motorsport DNA and track history in Australia, making a V8SC debut in 2013 an obvious initiative.
“We are targeting No.1 importer status in Australia and already making progress towards that as one of the country's fastest growing brands. V8 Supercars will boost that momentum.”
V8 Supercars Chairman Tony Cochrane acknowledged it was a significant day for the series.
“We welcome Nissan with more than open arms,” he said.
“This announcement ratifies all we have known about V8 Supercars for a long time – that we are an international player, a growing following globally and in great demand by big business and corporate players.
“I also applaud Kelly Racing for this pioneering move to embrace Nissan and take one of the world's biggest brands on their journey within the V8 Supercar Championship. Todd and Rick are truly remarkable businessmen, visionaries and drivers.”
Former V8 Supercar champion and Kelly Racing team co-owner, Rick Kelly was delighted with the move.
“I couldn’t be more excited with the opportunity Nissan has offered Todd, myself and the entire team at Kelly Racing to become their official factory team,” said Kelly.
“Nissan’s genuine enthusiasm, unwavering support and absolute professionalism through this evaluation has been tremendous and underpins their absolute intentions of Championship success in the category – a dream we share and hope to deliver on.
“This new partnership has only been made possible by the endless amount of hard work that John Crennan has done for Kelly Racing on this project, and that of Ian Moreillon, Jeff Fisher and the team at Nissan of which Todd and I are very grateful.
“The Nissan CotF project is a huge undertaking however Todd and I are firmly focused on the job at hand this season ensuring that Kelly Racing takes those important steps forward on and off the race track.
“Development of our cars and recruitment of key personnel in the off-season should assist us to realise these immediate goals.
“This new partnership brings with it a host of opportunities for the team, our business partners and of course fans and delivers the vision that we have shared since our inception in the category in 2009.”
Business partner and elder brother Todd Kelly said Kelly Racing's innovative business strategies fitted perfectly with Nissan’s desire to enter the V8 Supercar Championship.
“Rick and I have had one clear goal that we have been striving for since we started Kelly Racing, that was to become a benchmark race-winning team with factory support.
“The timing with Car of the Future has enabled us to engage a manufacturer and achieve that.
“We couldn’t be happier to be a factory Nissan team and factory Nissan drivers.”