The season starts this weekend in Adelaide.
No longer the new kids on the V8 Supercars block, Nissan Motorsport will kick off its 2014 campaign at the Clipsal 500 this weekend.
The four-car official factory team enjoyed a solid debut season, yielding 28 top 10 finishes and an historic victory at Winton in August.
At the recent official V8 test day at Sydney Motorsport Park, all four Nissan Altima V8 Supercars finished inside the top 10, with Todd Kelly’s Jack Daniel’s Altima placing second.
The opening event of the championship in Adelaide will see a brand-new race format implemented, with Saturday’s traditional 250km race replaced with two 125km race – the second of which to start at 6.50pm.
Besides the V8 Supercars action, Nissan will have another significant on-track role to play in Adelaide – the ‘Nissan Time Attack.’ Nissan will electrify the Clipsal 500 with its all-electric racing car, the Nissan LEAF Nismo RC. Fans will see the Nissan LEAF Nismo RC on both Saturday and Sunday at the Adelaide Parklands street circuit, with the all-electric racer on-track against a Nissan Altima V8 Supercar and a Nissan GT-R road car.
The Clipsal 500 track action commences on Friday on the streets of Adelaide on Friday with three practice sessions, plus two 15 minute qualifying sessions for Races 1 and 2 of the Championship. Saturday will see an early afternoon practice held ahead of two 125km races before Sunday’s qualifying and 250km race.
Todd Kelly, #7 Jack Daniel's Nissan Altima
"It's always hard to know how the test day relates to how our year's going to pan out," said Todd Kelly.
"There's always the quality of tyres that's an unknown, and really too many variables to read too far into it.
"It's certainly an exciting time for the team, we've done a huge amount of work through the off-season, in particular with our aero kit, and we know that it's got less aero drag than last year's car, so we should be faster up the straights.
"The cars are good, the team is fantastic, the reliability was good at the end of the year, and there are a lot of upgrades in the car. I just can't wait to get stuck into it and have a really solid start for the team."
Rick Kelly, #15 Jack Daniel's Nissan Altima
"The test day for us certainly looked good on paper, we were in the top-three all day long," said Rick Kelly.
"We had very strong pace in the wet, and very strong pace in the dry.
"What does that mean for us? In my opinion, it means nothing. We don't know what tyres everyone was on, there were very changeable weather conditions, some people got a run, some people didn't.
"I would have said we had a very solid run at our first test day last year, and it wasn't until later in the season that we really started to get on top of the car.
"For us, we're not hanging our hat on the test day result, we're obviously happy with the way the it went, but from now we need to build on the knowledge of what our car's doing from Clipsal and the rounds following that.
"The Saturday race will be split into two, which is probably a bit easier from a driver's point of view, but the thing that will add a level of difficulty is actually the fact that the second race on the Saturday finishes very late.
"What that's going to create is a really unique and exciting atmosphere, the sun starts to set, the cars will be a little bit louder, and you start to see the brakes glow red as the light dissipates in the background.
"Certainly later in the evening there will be a very good atmosphere for the fans. From the team's point of view, it creates the challenge of having to settle down after the race, cool down with a drink, have a de-brief, and work out what you are going to do with the car.
"By the time you do all that, it's going to be quite late on the Saturday night."
James Moffat, #360 Norton Nissan Altima
“There’s always a big build up to the Clipsal 500 and it’s always a great event to start the year,” said James Moffat.
“There has been some changes to the format of the race meeting, and personally, I’m not convinced about them, but I’m happy to be proven wrong. I like my traditions, and Adelaide has been a successful event from the very first race they had in 1999.
“Having said that, I don’t expect any less spectators to be there. The more starts you have, the more finishes there are and the more potential for excitement, but it does mean more work for our crew.
“As a driver, you have to adapt to it but the new format won’t change the fact that we’ll go there and try and do the best possible job.
“Adding to the unknowns is our true form. We put our new aero package through its paces at the test last week, but the weather probably threw up more questions than answers.
“But, all in all, I’m looking forward to getting the season underway.”
Michael Caruso, #36 Norton Nissan Altima
“The format change adds an element of mystery. We’ve never raced that late into the evening before in Adelaide,” said Michael Caruso.
“For myself, we had a disastrous first round last year, and because it’s the season opener, it’s one of those events where you not only need a good finish, but you need top 10s and straight cars to have a good start the year.
“I feel the new format means that qualifying will become even more critical. If you qualify strong for the two Saturday races, it will give you a better chance. And you can’t forget that you’ll need a straight car for Sunday. There’s going to be quite a few factors to watch out for.
“The speed we showed at the test were encouraging, but we’re not reading much into where we finished. You don’t know what tyres others had.
“The important thing is to assess what we have and what we did. I’m comfortable in the car, and the foundations are there to start the year in a strong position.”