No 'shoulders slumped' at Nissan

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 27/04/2015
  • By V8 Supercars

Nissan Motorsport team manager Scott Sinclair has made it emphatically clear the team goes to the May 1-3 Perth SuperSprint looking for good results and not fearing the worst.

And he insists the work going on behind the scenes at the Melbourne team is laying the groundwork for a boost in competitiveness when significant engine upgrades arrive around mid-season.

Barbagallo Raceway is expected to be one of the most challenging circuits on the 2015 calendar for the four-car Nissan Altima squad, following on from a difficult Tyrepower Tasmania SuperSprint at Symmons Plains.

But Sinclair won't have any negative talk.

"We don't want to make excuses, we are not going there with our shoulders slumped," he told "We are going there to make sure the cars are operating at their best and we are confident we will be on the back-end of the top 10.

"It's certainly not the mentality that we look at the calendar and go 'Jeez we got this track and this track which we hate'. You may as well stay home and sit by the pool if that's the case.

"So we are going there to get the most out of it and that is what will give us the confidence to execute when we have everything we want."

In Tasmania the four team drivers Rick and Todd Kelly, James Moffat and Michael Caruso could not manage a top 10 qualifying or race finish between them. They run ninth, 12th, 20th and 23rd in the drivers' championship respectively.

By comparison, their performance at Barbagallo last year was stronger, with Todd Kelly, Caruso and Moffat all managing a top 10 finish, despite the team battling persistent understeer.

Sinclair explained the team had also struggled to get the setup right in Tasmania this year, which had affected the statistical perception of the progress the team has made in 2015.

"I think we have improved a little bit, that's probably my take on it. Our average qualifying position for the year is at 14.5 I think. We had a pretty bad run at Tassie and before that we were at 12.3.

"So we are basically mid-pack. If you look at 2013 (Nissan's debut year) we certainly weren't and in 2014 we were closer and towards the end of 2014 in front of mid-pack.

"So we are still holding on to that mid-pack position ... and if we get the set-up wrong we look really bad and if we get the set-up right we are confident we can race comfortably inside the top 10."

As has been frequently chronicled, the Altima has gone through two aerodynamic re-homologations since its debut. The focus is now squarely on the 5.0-litre version of the Nissan VK56DE engine that has been specifically developed by the Kelly family-owned team and Nismo for V8 Supercars racing.

Power levels and delivery have been an issue since the beginning and work is now underway on a new cylinder head that should alleviate the issue. The upgrade is due around mid-season, although Sinclair says an exact date isn't settled.

"It changes daily," he said. "There are a few rounds tied together (mid-season) and it is an enormous project.

"I certainly didn't grasp the enormity of it when I got here and the drivers have been really good and shown a lot of patience in dealing with the whole thing.

"They always want to go quicker, but we are heading in the right direction so I am not losing sleep over where we are at."

Sinclair, who joined Nissan from Walkinshaw Racing in 2014 and engineered James Courtney to the 2010 championship at DJR, has been part of a significant overhaul of structure and personnel.

For 2015 only Caruso has retained his engineer (Steven Todkill), while Todd Kelly and James Moffat have swapped - Perry Kapper to Moffat, Nathan McColl to Kelly - and former Formula One engineer George Commins has returned home to take over from Erik Pender with Rick Kelly.

Sinclair says the changes - of which the engineering movement is only a part - are designed to ensure the team can take full advantage of the new engines when they arrive.

"We have tidied up a lot of stuff in the way we operate and what we do that is setting us up to be strong when we have the opportunity. So that is what our focus really is on; to make sure we are preparing the cars well and the guys are doing a really good job of that.

"That's the one side, but also just the way we go about racing and how we all are working together; that's really what will get us to take the next step while we are in a little bit of a holding pattern.

"So the most important thing is we are finishing races without any obstacles we have induced on our own. And if we can do that we are confident we can run in the 10 at the moment and then when we can get some upgrades we'd like to think we can run in the top five more consistently."

Tickets are available for this weekend's Perth SuperSprint, which kicks off on Friday - click here for more information.

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