Nissan's all-new Altima V8 Supercar, the first Supercar in almost two decades that isn't a Ford or a Holden, is almost ready to begin track-testing in preparation for its historic racing debut next March.
The Altima racer was unveiled in Melbourne this morning, fewer than eight months after the project was approved.
The $1 million machine, presented in special red-and-black Nissan test livery, is the prototype for a four-car, factory-backed team to be run by Kelly Racing under the Nissan Motorsport banner.
The cost of the first Altima V8 Supercar is at least double that of the existing Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores because it is an all-new design including a different engine.
“It's quite an expensive car,” admitted team co-owner and driver Todd Kelly, who has overseen its design and construction.
Nissan is joining V8 Supercars under the Car of the Future initiative that opens up the series to other makes, ending the duopoly of Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore that started in 1994.
The Altimas will race alongside FG Falcons and new-look VF Commodores, as well as a privately funded three-car Mercedes-Benz E-Class team.
They are powered by a locally developed five-litre racing version of the Nissan V8 used in the new Patrol and other overseas models.
Based on the body-shape of a new Nissan mid-size sedan that won't go on sale until late next year, the aggressively-shaped Altima V8 Supercar is due to have its shakedown at Melbourne's Calder Park Raceway within the next week.
Kelly Racing endurance race co-driver David Russell is on stand-by to conduct the initial test if the Altima is ready before lead driver Rick Kelly returns from this weekend's V8 event at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The trial run will be followed by straight-line tests to fine-tune the Altima's aerodynamic package ahead of parity testing next month.
The performance of the Altima's computer-designed front air dam and rear wing designs will be compared with the aero kits of the Commodore and Falcon to ensure equal levels of downforce and drag.
The aero trials will be held on a runway at the RAAF air base at East Sale in Gippsland. The testing will be conducted in strict secrecy because the Commodore prototype reveals the major restyle of the new VF model, which won't be shown in production form until just before the season-opening Adelaide 500 from March 1 to 3.
The performance of the Altima's production-based all-alloy double overhead camshaft V8 will also have to be tuned to be on a par with Commodore's and Falcon's bespoke racing engines, which are heavier and without the Nissan's freer-breathing multi-valve cylinder heads.
Slightly smaller and more slippery than the Fords and Holdens, the Altima is a striking reinterpretation of the road-car-on-steroids look of V8 Supercars.
“It's a good-looking thing,” Todd Kelly said proudly. “It looks completely different to the Commodore and Falcon. It's a really modern shape.”
Kelly confirmed the shape of the front air dam was “the most aggressive option” of the various shapes developed by the team with its computer modelling system.
All the main body panels of the Altima racer are production parts imported from the American factory where the road car is made.
They are mounted on the standardised "Car Of The Future" chassis, which is a common design – along with many of the mechanical components – to be used by all cars from next year in a bid to contain car construction and running costs.
The Altima racecar and engine are almost ready for track testing after almost eight months from concept to completion, involving 23,000 hours' work by Kelly Racing engineers and fabricators.
Nissan is returning to Australian touring car racing after an absence of 20 years, signing a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal with the Kelly brothers to transform their family owned team into Nissan Motorsport.
The domination of the Japanese manufacturer's Skyline GT-R – nicknamed “Godzilla” – in the early 1990s triggered the change to the rules introduced in 1993 that at first favoured and then required Australian V8s.