A Nissan V8 Supercars engine is being shipped to Japan after one of the company’s most senior global bosses ordered the official Nismo motorsport division to make it more competitive against its rivals.
Briton Andy Palmer is a Nissan executive vice president with a variety of responsibilities including global product planning.
His decision to get Nismo more deeply involved was confirmed to v8supercars.com.au by Simon Sproule, Nissan’s corporate vice president in charge of global marketing communications and motorsport.
“Andy has told Nismo ‘this is your responsibility to get this fixed’… these car carry Nismo badging on the side and he told Nismo in Japan ‘you make this car competitive’,” Sproule said.
“Let’s be very clear,” he added, “if it has got Nismo on the side of it, wherever it races, Nismo in Japan has the responsibility to make sure it performs.
“It is very clear instruction form Andy. If Nismo is on the side of the car it doesn’t matter where it races or who is racing it. It is out engine so they (Nismo) have to up their game and they know that.”
Development of the production-based 5.0-litre version of the VK56DE engine for the factory-backed Nissan Altima V8 Supercars attack has so far primarily been the responsibility of Nissan Motorsport (nee Kelly Racing).
Nismo, which is heaquartered in Yokohama, has provided some guidance, but so far there has been no performance breakthrough.
The multi-valve Nissan engine has struggled to match the existing Ford and GM pushrod racing engines for both power and economy.
The 5.0-litre version of the AMG M159 engine developed by Erebus Motorsport in co-operation with HWA in Germany has suffered similar issues, but is believed to now produce more competitive power.
Sproule stressed that Nismo’s increased engine development did not reflect on the efforts put in by Kelly Racing.
“I think objectively first season out the Kellys have done a very creditable job,” he said.
“The program was done in a fairly compressed time frame and like most new race teams you don’t really know until you stick the thing on the track and it starts running in anger.
“It’s only when you … start to see the performance and Kelly told us ‘there are the issues we have got with the engine’, the most notable being the outright top speed.”
Nismo’s emphasis is on improving top speed for the engine, which was clearly deficient at the Wilson Security Sandown 500, where Nissan Motorsport technical director, team co-owner and driver Todd Kelly finished 11th with co-driver David Russell and was best of the Nissans in their Jack Daniel’s Altima.
Kelly said the team was delighted that Nissan and Nismo was getting more deeply involved in the engine development program.
“It is a really logical next step for them to take an engine and have a play with it,” said Kelly. “They can analyse it a lot more accurately with their equipment and hopefully something comes of it.
“Everyone here is really rapt internally that we have been able to take it to that next level.
“They (Nismo) came over for the grand prix and we have had countless teleconferences and there are email trails on the different issues we have had with the engine and we have tried their components on the dyno, unfortunately not with any success.”
Kelly said that long lead times meant any significant engine performance gains made by Nismo would probably take until the 2014 season to implement.
“Even if you think we have plenty of time before Clipsal next year, to go through that process and implement specification changes, the lead time on that stuff is huge so we are pushing pretty hard.”
Sproule said he was confident the VK engine would be turned into a competitive package.
“The engine is a race-winning engine and we know that from Super GT and we know that from Le Mans,” he said. “So the engine is not the question. It’s just in that racing series, which we have never done before, in that competitive set, clearly we have a performance gap and we have got to fix it.
“For us it is a relatively simple black and white situation.”