Nissan Motorsport V8 Supercar driver Rick Kelly will head a team of international drivers to compete in the 2014 Bathurst 12 hour race in February, driving a factory-entered GT-R GT3 racer. The car will be prepared and entered by Nissan’s factory racing arm, Nismo, as part of the Japanese carmaker’s expanding global motorsport activity. This now includes numerous racing categories around the world, including the formation of Nissan Motorsport and its team of Altima racers competing in the 2013 V8 Supercar Championship.
Kelly has won the Bathurst 1000 V8 Supercar race twice in the past (2003 and 2004) driving Holden-badged racers, but is yet to compete in the 12 hour endurance race at the circuit. “ I haven’t had the right opportunity. Certainly this one is the right opportunity, and it will be the first time I’ve driven something other than a V8 Supercar in a while.”
The confirmation of the Bathurst 12 hour entry coincides with Nissan’s announcement of the Nismo Global Driver Exchange program, which will facilitate the sharing of factory Nissan driver’s among race categories around the world.
The program builds on the existing Nissan GT Academy program, which fosters upcoming international driver talent. Aside from Rick Kelly, the Nissan/Nismo Bathurst 12 hour entry will utilise drivers from the exchange program, under the ‘Nismo Athlete Global Team’ banner. The remaining drivers will be finalised in the coming months.
The Nissan team is expected to be one of several international entries in the 2014 12 hour event, as it strives to cement its place on the global endurance racing calendar. “In selecting the Bathurst 12 Hour as a key part of our 2014 racing program, Nissan has further cemented Australasia as a critical element of our global motorsport plans,” Nissan's global motorsport boss Darren Cox said.
The production-based GT-R Nismo GT3 currently races in Super GT, FIA GT Series, and Blancpain Endurance Series championships around the world, and produces at least 405kW/637Nm from its production-based twin-turbo 3.8 litre V6. Unlike the 1699kg road car, the racer has been stripped down to match the FIA’s 1300kg minimum weight for the GT3 category.
The GTR nameplate has tasted victory at Mt Panorama in the past, famously winning the 1000km race twice in 1991/92 in Group A guise, before being banned from the local championship – a move that laid the foundations for the V8 rear-wheel drive formula used by V8 Supercars today.
Privately-entered Nissan GT-Rs have competed in the 12 hour race in recent years in lesser categories, but the Class A Nissan entry will have its sights set on an overall victory. The 2013 event was won by the Erebus Motorsport Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 of Alex Roloff, Bernd Schneider and Thomas Jaeger, and joined on the podium by a Ferrari 458 GT3 and a Porsche 911 GT3R. The 2014 Bathurst 12 hour will take place on February 9 next year.
This reporter is on Twitter: @Mal_Flynn