Kellys ship V8 to Japan as Nissan factory motorsport division told to make engine a front-runner.
One of Nissa's most senior global executives has ordered the official Nismo motorsport division to make the engine powering the Altima V8 Supercar more competitive against its rivals.
As a result an example of the VK56DE engine is on its way from Nissan Motorsport in Melbourne to Nismo global HQ in Yokohama, Japan.
The directive to Nismo came from Briton Andy Palmer, a Nissan executive vice president with a variety of responsibilities including global product planning.
His decision to get Nismo more deeply involved was confirmed to motoring.com.au at the Frankfurt motor show by Simon Sproule, Nissa's corporate vice president in charge of global marketing communications and motorsport.
"Andy has told Nismo 'this is your responsibility to get this fixed'... these car carry Nismo badging on the side and he told Nismo in Japan 'you make this car competitive'," Sproule said.
"Let's be very clear," he added, "if it has got Nismo on the side of it, wherever it races, Nismo in Japan has the responsibility to make sure it performs.
"It is very clear instruction from Andy. If Nismo is on the side of the car it does't matter where it races or who is racing it. It is our engine so they [Nismo] have to up their game and they know that."
Development of the production-based 5.0-litre version of the VK56DE engine for the fac-tory-backed Nissan Altima V8 Supercars attack has so far primarily been the responsibility of Nissan Motorsport (nee Kelly Racing). Nismo has provided some guidance to the effort, but so far there has been no performance breakthrough.
The multi-valve Nissan engine has struggled to match the existing Ford and GM pushrod racing engines for both power and economy.
The 5.0-litre version of the AMG M159 engine developed by Erebus Motorsport in co-operation with HWA in Germany has suffered similar issues, but is believed to now pro-duce more competitive power.
Nismo's emphasis is on improving top speed for the engine, which was clearly deficient at the Wilson Security Sandown 500, where Nissan Motorsport technical director, team co-owner and driver Todd Kelly finished 11th with co-driver David Russell and best of the Nissans in their Jack Daniel's Altima.
Fuel economy also hurt both the Nissan and Benz engines at Sandown, a problem that V8 Supercars tried to assist them with by mandating a minimum four stops for all cars, after a proposal to give the multi-valve a more economic E70 ethanol fuel was canned.
Kelly said the team was delighted that Nissan and Nismo was getting more deeply in-volved in the engine development program.
"It is a really logical next step for them to take an engine and have a play with it," said Kelly. "They can analyse it a lot more accurately with their equipment and hopefully something comes of it.
"Everyone here is really rapt internally that we have been able to take it to that next level.
"They [Nismo] came over for the grand prix and we have had countless teleconferences and there are email trails on the different issues we have had with the engine and we have tried their components on the dyno, unfortunately not with any success."
Kelly said that long lead times meant any significant engine performance gains made by Nismo would probably take until the 2014 season to implement.
"Even if you think we have plenty of time before Clipsal next year, to go through that proc-ess and implement specification changes, the lead time on that stuff is huge so we are pushing pretty hard."
Sproule stressed that Nismo's increased engine development did not reflect on the efforts put in by Kelly Racing.
"I think objectively first season out the Kellys have done a very creditable job," he said.
"The program was done in a fairly compressed time frame and like most new race teams you do't really know until you stick the thing on the track and it starts running in anger.
"It's only when you ... start to see the performance and Kelly told us 'there are the issues we have got with the engine', the most notable being the outright top speed."
Sproule said he was confident the VK engine would be turned into a competitive package.
"The engine is a race-winning engine and we know that from Super GT and we know that from Le Mans," he said. "So the engine is not the question. It's just in that racing series, which we have never done before, in that competitive set, clearly we have a performance gap and we have got to fix it.
"For us it is a relatively simple black and white situation."
Words - Bruce Newton, from www.carsales.com.au