NISSAN’S seven-year return to the Supercars Championship was filled with a struggle to get itself on a level playing field.
The Japanese manufacturer, which dominated the ATCC in the early ‘90s under Group A regulations, was lured back to run its Altima model in partnership with Kelly Racing when the Car of the Future era began in 2013.
What followed was a largely frustrating period, with the highlights being three race wins and a runner-up finish in the 2014 Bathurst 1000.
Scott Sinclair, who joined as team manager in ’14 after being a race-winning engineer at both Dick Johnson Racing and the Holden Racing Team, detailed some of the battles faced in the latest episode of the V8 Sleuth Podcast polished by Bowden’s Own.
“I wasn’t involved in the first year, but the trajectory of that program was set before the cars even hit the track,” Sinclair told host Aaron Noonan. “Now, everyone has got a different view on this (parity matter).
“I don’t know enough about it to have a really strong view, but from what I was seeing, there were some inherent challenges that we struggled to overcome. The engine was without doubt one of those, and the aero.
“Other people will point to the aero as being a strength the car had a lot of rear downforce, it was very stable – it was so quick across the top at Mount Panorama, like super quick, but so slow up and down the hill. And the sector times reflected that.
“But for every time you put your hand out to try to get an engine exemption, someone would say, ‘but you have got this’.
“That was it, ongoing for the whole time. And we were trying to re-homologate all the time and we weren’t following the process because the process wasn’t going to help us.
“It was just ugly.”
It’s something that took a toll; Nissan announced its departure in 2018, with the Kellys fielding Altimas for one more season before switching to Ford.
By the end of 2021, Todd and Rick Kelly had both completely retired from racing and had sold their team to the Grove family.
“Todd invested so much time and energy and eventually I think it probably wore Rick out,” said Sinclair.
“Todd put so much into it, to try to get what we felt was a level playing field, but it was just buried in politics and data and process that probably wasn’t set up for the third manufacturer (and fourth and fifth).”