Nissan tight-lipped on Supercars future

  • 09/03/2018
  • By Stefan Bartholomaeus
  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship

Nissan CEO Stephen Lester is giving little away about the manufacturer’s Supercars future beyond the end of the current season.

Lester attended last weekend’s Adelaide 500, making an appearance in the Nissan Motorsport garage on Sunday.

This year marks the last on Nissan’s current two-year deal with Kelly Racing, signed in September 2016.

Amid suggestions that a decision will be announced sooner rather than later, Lester said only that Nissan continues to work through the situation with the team.

“I’d hate to speculate at this point,” he said in Adelaide.

“We’re going to work very closely with the team on it and when we have the right decision then we’ll come out with the announcement.”

Former Infiniti Canada boss Lester took over the Nissan Australia CEO role midway through last year, replacing Richard Emery.

Lester downplayed recent suggestions that the team’s results in the near future will have a direct impact on the outcome of Nissan’s deliberations.

“The team puts enough pressure on themselves,” he said.

“If these guys didn’t want to show up and win every weekend then we would have realised we were in the wrong business a long time ago.

“There’s no shortage of pressure, but there’s no additional pressure coming. These are professionals who want to win. I’ve been impressed with their resolve to try and do that.

“We can only help and do what we can to support the team.”

Nissan has decreased its on-car presence this season, with Michael Caruso’s entry previously backed by its Nismo brand now sporting the colours of Fairfax website Drive.

“Every year we approach it the same way,” said Lester of the move away from factory colours after three seasons as the primary backer of Caruso’s entry.

“We take a look at what we’re going to do and work out with the team the right decision.

“I think the cars look great. We work with the team very closely on the logo exposure and we’re pleased with how they’ve turned out.”

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Kellys to press on regardless

Amid the uncertainty, team co-owner and driver Rick Kelly has made clear that his outfit will continue regardless of Nissan’s decision.

Melbourne-based Kelly Racing has operated as a four-car team since 2009, running Holdens for its first four seasons before linking with Nissan in 2013.

Asked on Supercars Trackside last week if the Nissan situation puts the team under added pressure, Kelly noted that only one other team – Triple Eight – receives factory funding.

“You always have pressure from all your business partners, no one likes to do a long-term deal these days, it’s quite rare compared to what it used to be like,” he said.

“But I guess at the end of the day we’re one of two factory teams. If we’re lucky enough to continue with a manufacturer like Nissan that’s great, and that’s our priority.

“If something doesn’t go our way and we don’t do that then we’re one of every other team in pitlane – only one [other] team has that support now.

“It won’t be the end of the world and we’ll find a way to continue regardless.

“Todd and I, the [Kelly] family and the entire team have a big commitment in this sport and a huge investment.

“It’s something we’re very keen on continuing and growing, whether it’s with Nissan or without.”

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