Nissan picks ex-Penske man as technical director

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 17/01/2018
  • By Mitchell Adam

Nissan Motorsport has recruited experienced American Nick Ollila to fill its newly-created technical director position for the 2018 Supercars season.

The four-car squad outlined its global search late last year, and Ollila started in the role just before Christmas, attending the ZB Commodore's homologation tests in regional Victoria last month.

Ollila brings more than 40 years of experience, including work across Team Penske’s Formula 1, Indycar and NASCAR programs as a mechanic, engine builder and then chief engineer in the early 1970s and then 1981-95.

He then spent more than two decades leading the NASCAR aero programs for Roush Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Red Bull before shifting to consultancy in 2010.

“This is a new chapter for me, and I can’t wait to get started,” said Ollila, who will travel to every event.

“We’re not going to go to the racetrack this year with what we had last year.

“We won’t be better if we do that. Now that everyone is back onboard [for 2018], it’s game on.

“The category is well done, and the cars are tightly controlled - I like that.

“The tighter you make the box, the more rules you throw at me, the more fun that I have.

“It forces you to look for that small advantage over the other guy.”

Since entering Supercars with the Car of the Future-spec Altima in 2013, Nissan has won two races, taken three pole positions and 11 podium finishes.

Only a solitary pole, for Rick Kelly at Hidden Valley, was added to that tally in 2017, with Michael Caruso shading Kelly as its top driver in the championship in 13th.

It did, though, end the season strongly in Newcastle to help its grouping of owners Rick and Todd Kelly snatch sixth in the teams’ championship from Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

Nick Ollila

“Roger Penske told me once earlier in my career, ‘motor racing is the equivalent to war’,” Ollila added.

“You need to approach it with that same level of ferocity. You need to be ruthless with your competitors, and you’ve got to challenge the people working with you.

“In motorsports, you are constantly challenged to perform. You can win on Sunday, but on Monday you need to step your game up and get better.

“You can’t go back to the racetrack with the same thing you had before. You need to be constantly improving.

“You see how well you’re doing your job every time you hit the racetrack.”

The 2018 season is the last of Nissan’s current deal covering both Supercars and its partnership with the Kelly’s operation.

Talks on its future are ongoing, with the Gen2 regulations also providing scope to move away from the Altima and a V8 engine.

Nissan Motorsport will field Caruso, Rick Kelly, second-year driver Simona De Silvestro and Andre Heimgartner - replacing now-retired Todd Kelly - this year.

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