Nissan have snapped a three-year drought with a timely Supercars victory in the opening race of this weekend’s round in Darwin.
Michael Caruso on Saturday scored the manufacturer’s second win since joining the championship in 2013, their last being in Winton that same year.
He finished narrowly ahead of Holden star Jamie Whincup and Ford’s Chaz Mostert in third.
“I promised the boys that we were close this year and it’s nice to pull through and deliver for them because the last four years have been hard work for us,” Caruso said.
“We’re really proud.”
It couldn’t have come at a better time for the factory-backed outfit, with Nissan yet to formally commit to the sport beyond this season.
It was just Caruso’s second win in Supercars following his 2009 triumph also at Hidden Valley Raceway.
He qualified second for the race and had the early jump on Red Bull Racing’s polesitter Shane van Gisbergen during an eventful opening lap.
Van Gisbergen regained the lead on lap five following a safety car, triggered by a stray door that fell off Garth Tander’s Holden Racing Team Commodore.
But he copped a drive-through penalty for an early move at the restart, costing him potential victory. He finished 16th.
Caruso’s triumph brings to 10 the number of different winners from 12 races this season, and hands Whincup the championship lead.
Ford’s Mark Winterbottom had held a 27-point buffer at the top of the standings, but his ninth-place wasn’t enough to keep him at the summit. He slips down to second overall, 18 points behind Whincup.
The round’s second race begins at 1.30pm on Sunday (2pm AEST).