Always Evolving has reaffirmed plans of returning to Pirelli World Challenge next year, despite uncertainty surrounding the level of Nissan’s factory involvement in North American sports car racing.
The two-car Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 effort, operated by AIM Autosport, will continue, according to team manager Ian Willis, although exact details on the program have yet to be defined.
“We have some stuff in the works. We’re expecting to make some announcements, hopefully before the New Year, but they may be pushed back,” Willis told Sportscar365.
“Like a lot of Japanese companies, their corporate year starts April 1, so a lot of the budget decisions don’t match up with the racing schedule, which makes it pretty tentative for all of us, more tentative than normal in this industry.
“I honestly don’t know everything yet as I don’t think all the final decisions have been made.”
Nissan, which has provided factory support to the Always Evolving/AIM squad for the past two years, is understood to be re-evaluating its U.S.-based motorsports programs for next year, except for its new customer engine supply in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which is believed to be largely funded by Tequila Patron ESM.
When reached by Sportscar365, Rick Kulach, Nissan North America’s Motorsports Manager, said they will remain involved in PWC next year, but with details to still be worked out.
“Final details are still pending but [we] will be supporting customer-based racing just like the last two years,” Kulach told Sportscar365.
With two new GT-R NISMO GT3s currently in build in the UK, Willis said their PWC program would still go ahead, even if the manufacturer funding was reduced or eliminated.
“Hypothetically, if there’s no involvement from Nissan USA, it just becomes a customer program,” he said. “We certainly have looked at all options and are prepared for any and all options. We’re working on a lot of stuff… But we have to wait and see what’s announced.”
The team fielded James Davison and Nissan GT Academy USA winner Bryan Heitkotter this year, and evaluated JRM development driver Craig Dolby at the Utah round while Davison was serving a one-race suspension.
Plans were initially in place for a three-car effort for next year, prior to the latest development from Nissan.
Willis said there’s a number of options currently on the table for next year, especially with the integration of SprintX into the overall championship, which would require additional drivers for five of the ten weekends.
“What that will look like driver-wise and sponsor-wise, those are the questions that need to be answered,” he said.
The team expects to take delivery of its two new GT-R NISMO GT3s next month, with selected crew likely to support Wall Racing’s effort in February’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour with Always Evolving’s 2015-16 cars.