Nissan pulls Aussie Supercars pin: Back to Holden v Ford
NISSAN has pulled out of the V8 Supercars motor racing championship after five years, two race wins and spending an estimated $15 million sponsorship dollars.
The two-car team will continue until the end of this year, when it will bring to an end two contracts that went for three and two years respectively.
The exit of Nissan follows the withdrawal of Mercedes-Benz race cars in 2016, bringing the series back to its Holden versus Ford roots.
Nissan says it was not viable to race its GT-R sports-car in the V8 Supercars series because it already competes in two other series internationally - and developing a race car for a third set of regulations was prohibitively expensive.
The V8 Supercars championship has been a tough road for the Japanese car maker.
Nissan sales have fallen by 26 per cent since the brand entered the series - from 76,700 in 2013 to 56,600 in 2017 - and it has dropped much of its passenger-car range in favour of SUVs and utes in that time.
The Altima sedan which Nissan uses as the base of its race-car was withdrawn from sale locally in 2016, just two years after the Japanese brand entered the V8 Supercar series.
"It wasn't an easy decision to come to (and) it wasn't taken lightly," said Nissan Australia boss Stephen Lester.
He said it was a marketing decision rather than a financial decision to exit the series.
When asked if Nissan would exit motorsport permanently in Australia, he said: "Supercars is a terrific local series but it is not the only series in the country. Motorsport has always been a part of the DNA of the Nissan brand and we will consider … viable opportunities."
However, Mr Lester stopped short of confirming it would campaign the Nissan GT-R in the Australian GT Championship.
Nissan's highlights were its V8 Supercar race win in Darwin by Michael Caruso in 2016, and a one-two finish at Winton in 2013.
Nissan's most successful race driver, Mark Skaife, who was instrumental in bringing Nissan back to into motorsport locally, said: "It saddens me because Nissan is a great brand with a great racing heritage in Australia. Clearly the results haven't been to their level of expectation and there's a policy decision moving away from racing and concentrating on other forms of product."
A statement from Nissan said it has "decided to exit the Supercars Championship in order to concentrate on the interests and needs of our current and future customers" and focus on "electric vehicles and SUVs".
Todd and Rick Kelly have announced they will run the Nissan Altimas next year - rather than switch to Holden or Ford - although it is unclear whether the race cars will wear Nissan badging.
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling