Home' Supercar Xtra : June July 2015 Issue 87 Contents 59
nearly,” Todd says. “Two years’ worth of too much
money. It’s ridiculous.
“But everyone is confident there will be a good gain.
No-one is blasé about the fact it might take a far bit
“It won’t be just get the heads, dyno it, homologate
it and happy days. Manifold testing, camshaft testing,
exhaust system testing, everything we have done up
until now to get the engine where it is, we almost need
to go right back to the start to do all that again to
optimise the new spec parts. It’s a big job.”
Then Todd points out with some frustration, the job
to decide what engine to run from 2017 starts now –
but that’s another story.
Todd and brother Rick are the two figureheads of
Nissan Motorsport, which actually started its life as
Kelly Racing in 2009. A privateer Holden operation
back then, it transformed into Nissan’s factory team
for the 2013 season.
One of the reasons they won that gig was the scope
of their ambition. Kelly Racing wasn’t – and isn’t
just a storefront. Its factory in the south-eastern
Melbourne suburb of Braeside has 19 departments, 60
employees and the in-house ability to do everything
from parts machining, to stickering, to writing a press
release, to all that engine development in its own shop
run by former Walkinshaw man Ryan Webb.
Back in 2012 the team ran four Commodores in the
championship and at the same time designed and built
four Altimas and the first iteration of the VK engine to
race in 2013.
Back in those days Todd wore many hats – driver,
technical boss, team co-owner. He was permanently
harassed, tired and, at times, understandably grumpy.
As time has gone on so Nissan Motorsport has
added senior people to take the load; most high-
profile among them have been engineering chief Craig
Spencer who joined in late 2012, while team manager
Scott Sinclair came from the Holden Racing Team for
the 2014 season.
Gradually a mix and match of nationalities has
dissipated and Australiana accents have come to
dominate the workshop; some of them, like Spencer
and Rick’s new engineer George Commins, are fresh
from experience at the very highest level in Formula 1.
And with the departure of veteran marketing
maestro John Crennan to DJR Team Penske, former
commercial manager Nick Ryan has been promoted
into the role of over-arching general manager.
These days Todd probably gets more sleep and
Craig Spencer joined Nissan Motorsport in
August 2012 as technical director. His
impressive CV includes stints at Walkinshaw
Racing during the halcyon days of the HSV
Dealer Team (where he worked with Rick Kelly)
and in Formula 1 at several teams, including
Spencer is in charge of an eight-strong team
of engineers whose task is simple to say but
so complex to execute: make those Altimas
Todd speaks highly of the organisational
load you have taken on. What sort of
changes have you made?
We have improved our structure in all depart-
ments. We put processes in place that weren’t
in before and that’s everything from our lifing
to how we go about our servicing, how we go
about our manufacturing.
We have improved on all levels. So just like
any top race team, any part of the car or any
part that is an assembly you can dissect that
assembly down to a single part; we know the
life of what it should be, we should know its
breaking point of what the track says versus
what the FEA (finite element analysis) says.
So we have built all those processes up from
engineering through the departments.
Formula 1 is the ultimate in terms of
engineering and preparation. From what
you’ve seen, is V8 Supercars becoming
more like that?
I think so because you are getting more staff
that are migrating back that are Australians
and they are bringing what they learned back
here. There is obviously more money in the
sport financially now so the teams can afford
to raise the bar and they have got to because
two teams do it and the rest have got to
follow suit otherwise they get left behind.
These cars aren’t as complicated as before
on the fabrication side of things, but there’s
still a lot of machined components in there so
they are lifting the game in all areas.
Are these cars straightforward in terms of
I suppose you look at the cars from 2010 and
2011, you look at the cars that won to the
cars that didn’t win and there was probably
more variance in the cars. Now the chassis
is the same so you have to look at the set-up
and you have to look at the engine side of
The engines are probably closer but they are
having more of an influence on the outright
result because it’s basically a control category
Is the engine upgrade a case of install and
leap straight to the front?
No, that’s not the case. You can have the best
engine and if the chassis balance is not there
mid-corner then you might as well be 25
horsepower down because you are not going
to be able to use it. You have got to have less
coast time, you have got to get the thing to
rotate, get on the throttle at the right time.
So the new engine will require the car to be
For sure. It all depends if you have done your
homework right in what areas you are working
on. And we believe we have done our home-
work so for sure we will have to look at certain
aspects to improve it.
People say it’s the best chassis; we have
circuits and certain scenarios at circuits that
we have to lift our game in ... and we know
where that is so we are obviously working
towards that. So we don’t sit back and say,
‘We have the best chassis, we are just waiting
for the engine to come along’. No way. The
engineering office doesn’t operate like that.
So how confident are you the engine
upgrade will work?
Oh yeah, we have done our homework and if
we didn’t do our homework then we wouldn’t
have come out with what we needed and what
we have coming in the last half of the year.
THE BRAINS TRUST
ABOVE: While the Altima undegoes further upgrades, the Skyline
GT-R looms as its potential replacement under the Gen2 rules.
V8X87 p56-60 Nissan.indd 59
18/05/2015 10:25 am
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