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The Ford and Holden duopoly that was at the cornerstone of Supercars between 1993 and 2012 came to an end in 2013. The introduction of the Car of the Future regulations paved the way for other manufacturers to enter the category, starting at the season-opening Adelaide 500.
Nissan and AMG Mercedes-Benz entered the fray through very different arrangements. While Nissan joined forces with Kelly Racing in an official factory-backed capacity to run Nissan Altimas, Erebus Motorsport, having taken over Stone Brothers Racing, fielded Mercedes-Benz E63 AMGs in a customer arrangement with AMG and HWA in Germany.
Ford and Holden still retained numerical supremacy. The grid was made up of 15 of the new Holden VF Commodores and six of the older Ford FG Falcons, adapted onto the new control chassis, alongside four Nissan Altimas and three Mercedes-Benz E63 AMGs.
Kelly Racing’s line-up included co-owners Todd and Rick Kelly alongside James Moffat and Michael Caruso, while Erebus Motorsport recruited German Maro Engel to partner Lee Holdsworth and Tim Slade.
The VF Commodore proved to be the car to beat, sweeping its debut event with wins for Triple Eight Race Engineering’s Craig Lowndes and Tekno Autosports’ Shane van Gisbergen. The latter had sensationally walked away from Stone Brothers Racing and into retirement at the end of 2012, only to return with Tekno Autosports ahead of the 2013 season.
The Ford entrants had to play second fiddle, with Ford Performance Racing the only Falcon represented on the podium courtesy of Will Davison, with the team running an eye-catching “fire and ice” split livery across its two entries.
The newcomers weren’t too far off the pace, with the Altima clearly ahead of the E63. In qualifying, the Altima was eight-tenths of a second off the pace and the E63 around one and a half seconds adrift. In the races, Rick Kelly was best of the Nissan’s with an 11th place and Slade the leading E63 with a 15th place.
There were the expected mechanical dramas for both teams, as the challenge to reach a level-playing field in terms of engine performance and aerodynamics became evident.
The Altima went on to win a race with Moffat at Winton in August, though it was shrouded in controversy with the use of an E70 fuel blend as opposed to the usual E85, while the E63 didn’t score a podium finish only to win at Winton in April 2014.
By then, the stunning form of the new-for-2014 Volvo S60 at Garry Rogers Motorsport had overshadowed the progress made by the Altima and E63. The three new arrivals to Supercars could all lay claim to race wins, yet they never did claim a title up against the Fords and Holdens.
By the 2020 Adelaide 500, all three manufacturers were gone as Supercars returned to the Ford and Holden duopoly.
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