Godzilla returns to New Zealand after 25-year hiatus
The Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 will make its Australian GT Championship debut in the final two events of the 2016 season, both based in New Zealand.
The two events, held at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park and Highlands Motorsport Park, follow a win and a second place for the GT-R in the last two Bathurst 12 Hour events.
“It’s great to confirm that the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 will be making its Australian GT Championship debut,” said Nissan Motor Co. (Australia) Managing Director and CEO Richard Emery.
“Australians have seen the GT-R in action at the Bathurst 12 Hour for the past three years. It’s exciting that New Zealand motorsport fans will now have a chance to watch this spectacular car in action.”
Nissan Motorsport Supercars Championship driver Michael Caruso will lead the driver line-up for the two events. It will be Caruso’s debut in the Australian GT Championship and his first race aboard a Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3.
“I’m very excited and grateful to be getting my first opportunity to race the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3,” said Michael Caruso.
“I am a lifelong GT-R fan and I’ve had the chance to test the car a couple of times now. So it will be great to race it at these two New Zealand events alongside our Aussie GT Academy winner Matt Simmons, who has been racing one of these cars this year in Europe.”
Caruso will drive with 2015 Nissan PlayStation GT Academy International winner Matt Simmons, who has spent 2016 racing a GT-R NISMO GT3 in the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup in Europe.
“I can’t think of a better way to cap off my first year of racing than to compete in my home GT Championship – albeit on the other side of the Tasman over in New Zealand,” said Matt Simmons.
“Racing alongside Michael will be a buzz. A little over 12 months ago I was cheering him on in Supercars, now I’m his team-mate in a Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3.”
The driver line-up will give Nissan a strong chance of success, while keeping with the Australian GT Championship’s ‘Pro-Am’ philosophy – Caruso as the ‘Professional’ (FIA Gold Driver Ranking) and Simmons as the ‘Amateur’ (FIA Bronze Driver Ranking).
The #35 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 will be entered as ‘Nissan GT Academy Team Kelly’ and run by the Kelly family-owned Nissan Motorsport race team.
The entry will also celebrate 25 years since Nissan entered the Nissan GT-R R32 in events at Pukekohe and Wellington after winning both the Australian Touring Car Championship and Bathurst 1000 in 1991.
The 1991 campaign, which also saw Nissan as the naming-rights sponsor for both events, capped a successful season for the GT-R. Jim Richards and Mark Skaife took victory at the Pukekohe 500 one week after coming home in third place in the Wellington 500, nursing the GT-R home with front differential issues.
“We are excited to be collaborating with our Australian colleagues to bring the mighty Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 to New Zealand,” said Nissan New Zealand Managing Director John Manley.
“Kiwi motorsport fans will be able to cheer for Nissan on three consecutive weekends, with these two Australian GT Championship rounds coming either side of the Pukekohe Supercars event.
“The GT-R NISMO GT3 has wins at iconic races such as the Bathurst 12 Hour, Suzuka 1000 and Paul Ricard 1000. It would be great to add New Zealand accolades to that list 25 years after the last trans-Tasman effort from the GT-R.”