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Apr 01, 2013 - 04:51 PM
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Nissan's V8 Supercar Assault
Posted by: newsla on Apr 01, 2013 - 04:47 PM
Sports Cars
Nissan's V8 Supercar Assault

Nissan Aiming To Return To Former Glories

Fans at this year's Austin 400 will get the chance to see two new manufacturers do battle in the Australian V8 Supercar Championship.


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Nissan and Mercedes-Benz became the first two automotive makers to join the V8 Supercar grid this year since the Australian championship became an exclusive Ford vs Holden (GM) battle in 1995.

For Nissan, it is a return to "Down Under" competition after previously dominating the series then known as the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1990, 91 and 92. Nissan drivers Jim Richards and Mark Skaife also won the Bathurst 1000 - the Australian equivalent of the Daytona 500 - in 1991 and 92.

Nissan's return to the sport has been entrusted to the Melbourne-based Kelly Racing squad run by Bathurst-winning brothers Todd and Rick Kelly

Now known as Nissan Motorsport, the team is doing battle with a four car squad backed by U.S. companies. Todd and Rick Kelly drive the two Jack Daniels supported entries with James Moffatt and Michael Caruso aboard a pair of Nissan Altimas backed by computer security software maker, Norton.

The team has an additional link to the US with the Nissan Altima road car built in Smyrna, Tennessee and Canton, Mississippi. Nissan Motorsport will do battle against Ford, Holden (GM) and Mercedes-Benz at the Circuit of the Americas from May 17 to 19.

The team faced a huge task over the past 12 months as it transitioned from running Holdens in V8 Supercars last year while simultaneously kicking off the Nissan campaign

"I’m so immensely proud of each and every person at Nissan Motorsport,” said Todd Kelly (pictured above.)

“So much time and effort has gone into designing, constructing and assembling our four Nissan Altima V8 Supercars. We’ve strengthened every area of our team over the last 12 months in preparation for the 2013 season and I’m confident that all our work and effort will pay off this season.”

Who was the first American driver at Bathurst

A Texas twist to Australia's greatest race

Did you know the first American driver to start V8 Supercars' most prestigious event at Mount Panorama, Bathurst was actually one of the true stars of Texas motorsport history - none other than "Lone Star JR," Johnny Rutherford.

The three-time Indy 500 winner was teamed with the first woman to ever start the Indy 500, Janet Guthrie, in a Holden Torana for the 1977 race.

Unfortunately for Rutherford and Guthrie their "down under" adventure didn't last long - forced to retire from the race after 13 laps.

"That was kind of a special deal," Rutherford told SPEED.com's Marshall Pruett in 2011.

"I had raced Midget race cars in Australia and New Zealand during the winter months, summer down there. Because of that, I had made some connections. I was the Indy winner so they invited me to come back and they wanted to put Janet, since she was the first lady to run at Indy, and I as teammates."

Eleven Americans have contested "The Great Race" - 12 if you expand it to "North Americans" and include Canadian IndyCar regular Alex Tagliani who drove in 2005.

The US drivers to contest the race include sportscar ace and broadcaster Sam Posey (1980); Dick Barbour (79 and 80); Steve Dymand (81); Jaguar legend Bob Tullius (82); Roger Mandeville (83); IndyCar and NASCAR driver John Andretti (88); Trans-Am legend and current ALMS driver Tommy Kendall (96); multiple GRAND-AM Champion and former IndyCar ace Scott Pruet (97) and Boris Said (2008).

A number of Americans have also contested the Gold Coast 600 in recent years in Surfers Paradise including Pruett and ex-ALMS and Le Mans Porsche champion, Patrick Long (2010); ALMS & DTM star Joey Hand, Long, 3-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, Said and Tagliani (2011) and IndyCar aces Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal, James Hinchcliffe plus Said and sportscar racer Ricky Taylor in 2012.

Bright ready for US return

Ex-Indy Lights racer aiming for Austin 400 success

For Brad Jones Racing Holden driver Jason Bright the trip to the US for the Austin 400 will be a happy homecoming.

The former Bathurst winner finished runner-up in the 1996 US Formula Ford 2000 championship and returned to the US in 2000 where he contested the Indy Lights championship.

Bright took five Indy Lights podiums that season including a victory in Portland.

He also has a race start to his credit at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1996 when he was part of the factory Aston Martin squad.

"Those years were great. I was learning so many new circuits with the variety in the series with road courses and ovals," said Bright - the first of eight V8 Superar drivers who will write columns in the lead-up to the Austin 400 for SPEED.com

"I learned so much about setup on cars because of the ovals. The ovals were so much more technical than road courses and there were a lot of lessons I learned from back then that have really helped my career.

"I love going to new tracks - I think that’s one of the challenges for a race car driver is learning a new track and learning it fast, in a limited amount of time. You have to figure out what works, especially on a track like Circuit of the Americas, where you can take several different lines through the corners, working out what works best there and going through the data and trying to figure out what is the quickest way around that track.

"Getting the chance to go to the Circuit of the Americas is going to be great and I think the fans in the US – especially those who normally follow NASCAR – are really going to enjoy V8 Supercars."

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