Here’s everything you need to know about Nissan’s NISMO
Today virtually all of the major automakers have a separate branch that specializes in developing their top performing vehicles. For Mercedes-Benz, it’s AMG. BMW has its famous “M” division and Toyota is turning to its Toyota Racing Development (TRD) unit. At Nissan, this responsibility is left to its Motorsport division, a configuration better known as NISMO (derived from Nissan Motorsports).
Nissan’s performance branch has been around for several decades now and the technical expertise coupled with the valuable lessons learned from countless racing competitions has spread to Nissan mainstream vehicles like the Sentra, Juke, 370Z and, of course, the GT-R. NISMO’s journey is marked by countless notable events and awards, from its early days to its current form, and here we take a look at a few really cool ones.
Older than you think
NISMO’s story began almost 60 years ago, in 1964, when Prince Motor Company, a local Japanese automaker, decided to enter motorsport as part of a sales growth strategy. To create its first “race car,” the company basically performed an engine transplant, taking a 2.0-liter 6-cylinder engine from a luxury sedan, the Nissan Gloria, and installing it in a car. much smaller called Skyline.
The new car was dubbed the Prince Skyline 2000GT and 100 customer units of the car had to be produced to comply with racing competition rules.
The Prince Skyline 2000GT made its debut on May 1, 1964, just 2 days before its first official competition. Nevertheless, the car still managed to take all the positions from 2nd to 6th. Prince followed that up with another car in 1965, the Prince R380, a car that would set several world speed records.
Such performances had to attract attention and it wasn’t long before Nissan arrived. In 1966, the Japanese auto giant finally took a step and managed to acquire its much smaller counterpart.
NISMO takes off
NISMO was officially formed in 1984 after Nissan decided to underline its full commitment to competition by merging its two motorsport units existing at the time: Oppama Works and Õmori Works. Oppama Works served the needs of some private teams while Omori Works mainly focused on plant operations.
The newly formed division, now specializing in sports car racing, was also tasked with providing a full range of support to teams participating in the Japanese national F3 racing series.
The first NISMO car
Nissan did not rush things, and it was not until 1987, 3 years after the launch of NISMO, that the brand unveiled its first NISMO creation, the Saurus, as a concept car at the Paris Motor Show. Tokyo. The track car didn’t have a lot of aesthetics, but it did have a 2.0-liter turbocharged unit to provide the necessary firepower.
The production version lost the turbocharged engine and instead gained a 1.8-liter engine that generated around 135 hp. Autocar had the opportunity to test the Saurus and came away impressed with the car’s good handling. It was a sign of things to come.
NISMO Global Pilot Exchange
Nissan Motorsports has always considered competition to be a priority and it continues to this day. They actually have a special program known as the NISMO Global Driver Exchange program. It is an initiative of Nissan and NISMO that allows a group of drivers to come together and share experiences drawn from different categories of racing.
Among other things, it also provides a channel for factory riders to try and win glory in renowned competitions like the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 24 Hours of Dubai Endurance Racing and the 12 Hours of Bathurst.
NISMO truck? Why not?
In August 2021, Takao Katagiri, Global CEO of Nissan, confirmed that discussions were underway to expand the NISMO sub-brand in the United States beyond the Nissan GT-R NISMO, the only NISMO vehicle currently sold on the American market. The Japanese automaker is currently considering applying the NISMO special treatment to its line of trucks, putting them in direct competition with pickup trucks like the Toyota Tacoma TRD.
It will also help ensure the brand is better positioned to take advantage of the ever-growing US pickup truck market. Nissan has already launched a Nissan Patrol NISMO SUV in other markets, so the idea of a pickup truck with the NISMO badge might not be so far-fetched.
The Skyline Legend R32
The Nissan Skyline R32 debuted in 1989 and was born out of the automaker’s desire to compete in the Japanese Group A racing series. The car, developed by NISMO artisans, took the racing circuit by surprise. He has achieved 29 consecutive victories in as many race starts, winning the Group A competition of the Japanese GT Championship for 4 consecutive years.
Domestic conquest was not enough for the Skyline R32, and its total dominance of the Australian Touring Car Championship from 1990 to 1993 earned the car a nickname it still bears today: Godzilla.
Connection to Formula E
Nissan, through its Motorsports division, ventured into the all-electric world of Formula E in the 2018/2019 season of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship. In the same season, the team became the best team. qualifying while driver Sébastien Buemi finished second in the overall championship standings.
This participation made Nissan the first and currently the only Japanese automaker to compete in Formula E. It also showcases the versatility of the Nissan Motorsport division as they also compete in non-electric racing competitions like the championships. Super GT at the same time.
It’s not just the smooth race tracks that won Nissan Motorsports; the division also immersed itself in the difficult world of competitive off-road endurance rallies. For example, NISMO was behind the development of the Nissan RAID truck for the world famous Dakar rally.
In 2004 and 2005, the Nissan pickup, driven by famous British driver Collin McRae was still capable of securing 4 stage victories even though the overall standings at the end of the day were less than stellar.
An unhappy relationship
There was a time when Nissan Motorsports threw in the gauntlet and wanted to challenge Audi, Porsche and Toyota for the title of the FIA World Endurance Championship. He made his debut with the crazy Nissan GT-R LM NISMO race car in the 2015 edition of the competition. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned and the three cars entered in the race suffered various mechanical problems and did not register any significant results.
NISMO withdrew to heal his wounds and, soon after, decided to end the ambitious project. This is one of the major sour spots in NISMO’s otherwise colorful motorsport history.
Japanese automakers have long known how to turn their 4-cylinder engines into powerful beasts.
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