Nissan Motorsport V8 Supercar drivers Todd Kelly, Rick Kelly and Michael Caruso have been given a behind-the-scenes tour of Nissan's North American headquarters, which is the 'birthplace' of the Nissan Altima that the drivers will race at the Austin 400 at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas this weekend.
The trio experienced a guided tour of Nissan's production facility in Smyrna, Tennessee – where Nissan North America produces the Altima mid-size sedan among other models. The Smyrna plant has built the Altima since Job 1 rolled off the assembly line in 1992.
Nissan Motorsport has spent the past 18 months designing and building its own four Altima V8 Supercars for competition. The road-going Altima will go on-sale in Australia in the fourth-quarter of 2013.
In 2012, 302,934 Altimas were sold in the United States, making it one of the best-selling cars in the US market. It was the first time that the Altima nameplate had exceeded 300,000 sales in a calendar year. The Altimas were built in the Smyrna production plant that the drivers visited, as well as its sister facility in Canton, Mississippi.
In addition to the plant tour, the drivers also visited Nissan North America's headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee as part of the build-up to this weekend's four-race event in Texas, the first time that the V8 Supercars Championship has raced in the United States.
And as a special treat, the drivers made a visit to the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville where they viewed one of the most famous race cars in Nissan's motorsport history, the Nissan GTP ZX-Turbo racing car that Geoff Brabham drove to four straight IMSA GTP Championships from 1998-1991. Its sister car from Japan also won the 1992 Daytona 24 Hour endurance race.
Caruso and the Kelly brothers sampled Nissan Altima and Pathfinder models while driving between the visits, also sampling the Nissan Titan. The Titan features the same VK56 engine that the team races in its Nissan Altima V8 Supercars, the engine that also originates from the United States, from Nissan's engine plant in nearby Decherd, Tennessee.
The trio will join their Nissan Motorsport team-mate James Moffat in Austin, Texas as they continue preparations for this weekend's history-making V8 Supercars event.
NISSAN MOTORSPORT DRIVER QUOTES
Nissan Motorsport V8 Supercar drivers (from left) Todd Kelly, Rick Kelly and Michael Caruso have been given a behind-the-scenes tour of Nissan’s North American headquarters, which is the ‘birthplace’ of the Nissan Altima that the drivers will race at the Austin 400 at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas this weekend.
Rick Kelly – #15 Jack Daniel's Nissan Altima:
"Today was a fantastic insight into the production of the Nissan Altima road car," said Rick Kelly.
"I was lucky enough to be at the global unveiling of the Altima at last year's New York International Auto Show, so today it was great to get a close look at the production facility that gives birth to hundreds of thousands of Nissan Altimas every year.
"At Nissan Motorsport Australia's headquarters back home in Melbourne, our whole world has revolved around the Altima for over a year now, but because they aren't on our roads yet, we have only been exposed to four of them on our workshop floor.
"Nissan USA sold over 300,000 last year, and you can tell, because every third car that drives past you on the road here is an Altima! I can't wait to have the car available in Australia."
Todd Kelly – #7 Jack Daniel's Nissan Altima:
"I've visited a few car manufacturing facilities over the years, but none as big as this one in Smyrna," said Todd Kelly.
"The sheer size of the plant has blown me away. It took us more than an hour to do the tour, and we didn't even get to all of the different divisions.
"This visit makes me proud to represent Nissan, proud of what our team has achieved and makes me even hungrier to get us to the top step of the V8 Supercars podium."
Michael Caruso – #36 Norton 360 Nissan Altima
"I always dreamed about being a factory driver for a V8 Supercars team, and today's tour of the Smyrna plant has made me fully appreciate the importance of my role at Nissan Motorsport," said Michael Caruso.
"For Australians, the only exposure they've had to the Altima nameplate is on our race cars. Here in America, the Altima is everywhere – you could say they are as common as a Vegemite on your toast for breakfast!
"It will be an exciting time when Altima reaches Australian shores and I now have a better appreciation for its heritage and what it means in the huge US market as well as globally."
VIDEO Nissan Motorsport V8 Supercar Drivers Visit the Birthplace of the Altima in Tennessee