COLIN SMITH IS ON THE TRAIL OF A RUMOUR AND IT IS HOTTING UP
Godzilla could return to race at New Zealand tracks, 25 years after the original was seen in action here.
Nissan Australia says it is evaluating the possibility of campaigning its GT-R NISMO GT3 racer when New Zealand gets a double serving of Australian GT Championship action in late 2016.
The endurance element of the 2016 AGT calendar is wrapped up by the fourth running of the Highlands 101 meeting, preceded by the inaugural Hampton Downs 101, that marks the official re-opening of the Tony Quinn-owned North Waikato circuit.
The race dates are October 29-30 at Hampton Downs and November 12-13 at Highlands, a fortnight split by the Pukekohe round of the V8 Supercars Championship.
The FIA GT3 category forms the backbone of the Australian GT Championship with an impressive grid of late-model Audi R8, BMW M6, Porsche 911, McLaren 650S, Ferrari 488, Mercedes-AMG GT, Aston Martin Vantage and Lamborghini GT3 weaponry.
It provides the sort of multi-marque international endurance racing not seen in Australasia since the Group A touring car era.
I first caught the scent of a potential Godzilla appearance in New Zealand back in February and made some inquiries to Nissan New Zealand. My question was referred to Chris Jordan, the corporate communications supervisor at Nissan Australia.
Nothing was confirmed.
“This 2015-specification Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 was imported into Australia specifically for the Bathurst 12 Hour,” Jordan said in February.
“At this stage the car will not race outside of the Bathurst 12 Hour. We may assess other opportunities that arise throughout 2015 but have no confirmed plans at this time.”
Things have progressed a little since and when I contacted Jordan last week the official word on a New Zealand campaign had become “we are evaluating the possibility — but still nothing confirmed at this point.”
The Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 stormed to a Bathurst 12 Hour victory in 2015, and to defend the title Nissan Australia purchased a car of its own and it finished a close runner-up in 2016 behind the Tekno Motorsport entered McLaren 650S GT3. Since then there have been rumours about what may happen to that car before it reappears at Mt Panorama next February.
There will be some logistics to sort. The Australian GT Championship doesn’t allow manufacturer teams and because Nissan Australia owns the car there would have to be some arrangement made with a team to be the official entrant of the car.
Even speculation surrounding the appearance of that one car that has the potential to “move the needle” when it comes to interest in the New Zealand GT endurance double-header.
The Nissan would be a star attraction for the Kiwi enduros. It extends the appeal of GT3 racing beyond the ranks of motor racing purists and attracts a younger demographic.
And if the Kiwi campaign gets a green light it will be 25 years since the original “Godzilla” R32 Skyline GT-R raced here.
Jim Richards and Mark Skaife teamed up for the Nissan Mobil 500 races at Wellington and Pukekohe in 1990 and 1991. The car failed to finish both 1990 races but placed third at Wellington in December 1991 and won the Pukekohe 500 the next weekend.