OYAMA, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan – Fuji Speedway played host to the NISMO Festival on Sunday where dozens of the marque's most storied machines took to the track in front of over 32,000 adoring fans. After one year away (while NISMO was being relocated to a new HQ in Yokohama), this year's festival reaffirmed its position as preeminent among the manufacturer-based post-season extravaganzas.
With an objective of bringing fans closer to the brand through the celebration of its successes – both current and historic – the NISMO Festival was eagerly awaited by motorsports enthusiasts and widely acknowledged as the event that closes out the annual motorsports calendar in Japan.
The day was filled with on-track activity, keeping fans enthralled as iconic machines battled in exhibition races, some of them piloted by their original drivers.
After the opening ceremony, this year celebrating 80 years of Nissan, the first of the on-track sessions got underway with the Nissan Historic Demo Car Run. Featuring some of Nissan's most coveted vehicles across four decades from the '60s to the turn of the century, racers including the Nissan R380, R381 and R382 sports cars. The first Skyline2000 GT-R ventured out on track amongst more modern machinery including a brace of Group A Skyline GT-Rs (R32), Group C machinery (R91CP, R92CP) and the unique NP35. There was also the familiar coloring of JGTC (All-Japan Grand Touring Championship) title-winning entries in the form of Pennzoil and Xanavi NISMO-liveried cars.
This was quickly followed by the NISSAN GT-R CTe (Club Track edition) Prestige Cup, with a field of a dozen identically prepared R35 GT-Rs on track for their 6-lap exhibition race.
Drifting was also represented – and by one of the country's most highly respected outfits, Team Orange. Their "Drift Show" had S13, S14 and S15 variants of Silvia, as well as the North-American spec. 180SX smoking their tires and exciting the crowds in the grandstand.
The NISSAN Historic Car Exhibition Race, where "minor touring" cars – including the legendary B110 (16 examples), KPGC10 (3 examples) and B310 (13 examples) – were demonstrated alongside "Hakosuka" GT-Rs, Bluebirds and Sunnys providing a reminiscent recap of a golden age in Japanese motorsports history.
Legendary drivers in abundance
Nissan is well known for the many hero drivers it has cultivated over the decades, and the NISMO Festival was the perfect place for fans to see a group of them reunited with their mounts. Names like Sunako, Kitano, Hasemi and Hoshino all graced race- and title-winning cars over the years, and each of them was in attendance at the NISMO Festival.
In commemoration of NISMO's first-ever president, Mr. Yasuharu Nanba (who famously took Nissan's first international motorsports victory with a class-win in the Mobilgas Trial Round Australia Rally in 1958), a minute's silence was observed prior to the day's activities getting underway. NISMO's current president, Mr. Shoichi Miyatani, appropriately reprised this at the finale when he praised the late leader, thanking him for his vision and remarking how the perfect weather gracing the event would have pleased him.
The "Advent of NISSAN GT-R NISMO" brought some of the most famous of Nissan's racers out on track, with legendary cars running alongside their modern counterparts in a fete of the brand's halo model.
Away from the track, there was plenty to keep visitors busy. Rows of vendors throughout the paddock had collectors and specialists in awe at the variety of rare and hard-to-find items and obvious musts for any die-hard Nissan fan. There was a variety of Driver Talkshows and an auction, autograph sessions, plus the Pit Stop Simulation held on the roof of the main pit building.
In the run-up to next year's all-new challenger in SUPER GT's GT500 class, the NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT500 was on show to the public, setting the scene for what promises to be an intensely exciting 2014 season in Japan's top racing series.
The car also demonstrates how Nissan's race-bred technologies reach road-going vehicles.
The Grid Walk was another major thrill, where fans were able to get up close to cars they may have only seen on track or on television. As well as the cars, the drivers were also easily approached, and the grid quickly became as packed as before any major race, spectators feverishly snapping photos with their heroes and the race queens.
Having recently made its debut just before the Tokyo Motor Show, the latest in the lineage of GT-Rs for the street, the Nissan GT-R NISMO, was also on hand demonstrating how Nissan's race-bred technologies reach road-going vehicles.
As if all that excitement wasn't enough, the action continued with the NISMO GP 2013, where NISMO Athlete Global Team drivers Lucas Ordonez and Alex Buncombe joined all the current GT-Rs and Zs in Japanese racing for an 18-car blowout that had the crowd on their feet.
The finale brought to an end a day filled with action and excitement, climaxing in the drivers throwing presents to the fans in the stands in appreciation of their unwavering support, both now and in the future. That future will be celebrated at the next NISMO Festival.
# # #