Holden and Nissan continue to consider their futures in Supercars, but will not be influenced by Volvo’s shock decision to stop racing at the end of 2016.
Both manufacturers’ current deals end this year. Holden has been a key player in the Championship, having celebrated its 500th race win earlier this year, while Nissan entered in the ‘car of the future’ era with Rick and Tod Kelly’s team from 2013.
Nissan Australia MD Richard Emery has to gain the green light from his global headquarters to continue on in local motorsport and Supercars, with meetings in Japan reported earlier this year and more to come.
“From my perspective it (Volvo’s withdrawal) doesn’t make any difference, but having said that, the word will filter through into the Nissan motorsport environment in Japan and they will probably ask me some more questions now about why I think Volvo made their decision and what’s the basis of their decision,” Emery told motoring.com.au.
Emery’s timetable of negotiations with Nissan and its motorsport division, Nismo, have consistently blown out. With new management recently taking the reigns at Nismo, a decision is not now expected before June.
“That is still the case,” he confirmed. “I can say I had a conversation with them last week again, just further information flows between us and the new people. It wasn’t specifically to advance a decision, more let’s have a catch-up and get some more background.
“I am in Japan in a couple of weeks at the end of May and I will probably have the chance to go face-to-face with some of these guys at that point in time.”
Emery acknowledged that navigating the channels of upper management in a large company such as Nissan made the gaining of a green light for the Australian program a delicate process.
He did not dispute the proposition that the way the Volvo program fell over was indicative of the complexities and bureaucracies of a multi-national corporation.
The Volvo news broke on Wednesday from its wholly-owned Polestar performance and motorsport division, which meant there was some initial
confusion in some quarters – including GRM – about the significance of the decision.
“There are so many stakeholders (within a car company),” Emery said. “It’s a bit simplistic to view it just as a marketing decision or a motorsport decision. There are other factors at play that need to be considered.”
One factor Emery must deal with is that racing the Altima in Australia doesn’t really fit with Nissan’s global emphasis on racing the GT-R. But he has indicated the intention would be to continue with the Altima and its locally-developed V8 engine.
Holden is in a different position to Nissan. It has been officially involved in Australian touring car racing since 1969.
It has already committed to continue on in the championship but has yet to define what form that support will take. Currently it backs two factory teams – Triple Eight Race Engineering, which races as Red Bull Racing Australia and has just added a third Caltex-backed car for category icon Craig Lowndes.
The other factory outfit is the Holden Racing Team, which is operated by Walkinshaw Racing, an arm of the same group that also owns and runs Holden Special Vehicles.
“We were a bit surprised like most people (by Volvo’s withdrawal), but our involvement in the sport is more about the sport itself as opposed to all the different manufacturers that may or may not be in there,” said Holden director of communications Sean Poppitt.
Unlike Volvo, Holden will not have a decision about its motorsport plans imposed on it from above. In fact, General Motors HQ in North America is understood to be very much in support of an ongoing Supercar program.
“Our destiny is certainly completely in our own hands,” said Poppitt. “But I couldn’t give you a line in the sand timeframe (on a decision). It could be as soon as two months or it might stretch out to four months.
“It’s a massive part of Holden’s heritage so any decision we make, whether it be scaling it back or what we do with it we are approaching with the kind of gravitas it deserves. So it is something we are spending a lot of time on.
“We will continue to be involved in Supercars and we will continue to have a presence in it. That is for sure. But what that looks like and the level of it and that sort of thing is what we are working though.”