Nissan Motorsport will conclude its return year to top-level Australian motorsport at the grueling Sydney Olympic Park street circuit this weekend.
In what has been described as a successful debut in the V8 Supercars Championship, Nissan has collected 22 top finishes, three top fives and the unforgettable victory for Norton driver James Moffat at Winton Raceway in August.
The Sydney NRMA Motoring and Services 500 presents Nissan Motorsport with a great opportunity to end the season on a high. The unforgiving and unpredictable nature of the circuit and the event means that picking a winner is a punter’s nightmare, and the four Nissan Altima drivers are aiming to leave the prestigious races with a trophy.
For Michael Caruso, the race holds special meaning, as this is his 'home' event, having grown up on Sydney's northern beaches. He also owns a special record at the track, currently holding the best average finishing position of any V8 Supercars driver.
The Sydney Olympic Park event kicks off on Friday with practice ahead of qualifying and races on Saturday and Sunday.
Jeff Fisher, General Manager, Motorsports, Nissan Motor Company Australia
“Our aim was to be competitive in Year 1, and if you look at the haul of top 10 results we’ve had, plus the 1-2 finish at Winton, we believe we’ve gone beyond what we said we wanted to achieve,” said Jeff Fisher.
“These results have given us a great platform for 2014.
“Our V8 Supercars campaign has attracted the eyes of Nissan from around the world, including Japan, Europe and the United States, and now, Nismo is very engaged with our program.
“We said at the beginning that we’d change the face of V8 Supercar as the first new manufacturer to commit, and from next year and beyond, the sport will contiune to change for the better because of our involvement by broadening the fans' interest.
“As the season has gone on, we’ve really been able to define our own character in V8 Supercars. Our presence is irrefutable."
Michael Caruso, #36 Norton Nissan Altima
“I love the Sydney street circuit. I always run really well there, and I have the highest average finishing position at the track. My best result is second, but finishing first is always the aim,” said Michael Caruso.
“Our speed over one lap will be good, but ultimately, it will come down to fuel economy, so the two minimum stops will help us remain in contention.
“We had a good run at Phillip Island, but were dogged by some mechanical problems. Since we tested at Winton mid-year, the speed of our car has been great, relative to my Nissan team-mates. We’ve really found the set-up window of the Altima and had a few good results along the way. Hopefully we can continue that at my ‘home’ race in Sydney.”
James Moffat, #360 Norton Nissan Altima
“I’m quite confident that our car will be reasonably suited to the circuit,” said James Moffat.
“It’s an old cliché, but we’d like to finish the season off as best as we can.
“I’m looking forward to Sydney. I qualified in the top 10 both days last year, and finished inside the top 10 on Saturday. It’s a track I enjoy and I hope we can wrap up the season on a high.
“The minimum fuel stops will definitely help us, but we’ll still be a little behind the eight ball. We’ll just have to see how the races pan out.”
Todd Kelly, #7 Jack Daniel's Nissan Altima
"The Sydney 500 is one of the hardest races that we do all year, a lot of people think that Clipsal is very tough, but the race in Sydney, the very last round, is probably harder," Todd Kelly said.
"It's a very demanding track, very bumpy, and there's not a lot of opportunity to take a rest, so it's one of those places where the priority is to survive because there are usually quite a few cars that don't make it home through mistakes and driver fatigue.
"That could play into our hands a little bit, so we need to make sure we're there at the end of the day. The cars are really good around that style of circuit, but there are a couple of decent straights as well, so hopefully we can finish our first year as Nissan Motorsport with a good result."
Rick Kelly, #15 Jack Daniel's Nissan Altima
"The Sydney 500 is a big one, there's no doubt about it, 500km around a tough street circuit like that is quite demanding on the driver and last year we saw one of the most difficult races that us drivers have had to endure over the last few years," Rick Kelly said.
"The temperature was well into the 30s and it was a long hard race, which saw a lot of guys making mistakes just due to the heat.
"We're coming into the weekend with high ambitions of getting well in the top 10 and finishing the year on a high. There would be nothing better than to end our first year with Nissan on a high and head into Christmas ready to change as much as we can on the cars to get up the front for next year.”