Nissan is set to be represented in the GT Daytona class of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship this year, with the Japanese manufacturer finalizing plans for a GT-R entry beginning in the second half of the season.
Speaking to Sportscar365 in an exclusive interview, Nissan Global Motorsport Director Darren Cox confirmed intentions of having the GT3-based car on the grid featuring a lineup of GT Academy drivers.
“You will see a [Nissan] GT-R GTD car racing in TUSC this year,” Cox told Sportscar365. “We were very close to having it ready for Daytona. Unfortunately we literally just ran out of time. There was some final contracts. We were supporting the car out of Japan from a parts point of view.”
While efforts were made to have the V6-powered contender on the grid for the season-opening round, the car did complete a shakedown at Silverstone in partial GTD trim, with Alex Buncombe handling testing duties (pictured, above).
“It’s a shame we couldn’t get out for Daytona,” Cox said. “The car is very fast in a straight line. But that’s life. We’ve got a good program in the P2 car so we’re pleased that Nissan is going to be represented in the championship.”
Cox said the rollout of the Nissan GT-R GTD in North America will initially see Nismo engineering support but would likely be run entirely by a North American-based squad.
It’s believed that team is Pickett Racing, Nissan’s newly appointed North American partner team, although Cox would not confirm.
“We’re already starting to ramp up support of the series,” he said. “We’re committed to the new championship. I know there’s been a lot of naysayers. My view, and I’ve met with Jim France a number of times, I think they’re absolutely committed to it.
“This idea of taking the best of both… For me, you just have to look at the first three rounds of the championship. To start off with Daytona, Sebring and Long Beach, what other championship can say that?”
Nissan GT Academy USA winners Bryan Heitkotter and Steve Doherty tested Pickett Racing’s Prototype Challenge car at Sebring in November, in what Cox said was an evaluation on multiple fronts, including a possible future drive in Pickett’s Nissan-powered Oreca 03 P2 car.
Cox confirmed plans for the GTD car to be driven by an all-GT Academy lineup in the Pro-Am enforced category.
It’s believed both Heitkotter and Doherty could be tipped for drives in the GTD car, along with the future possibility of 2013 USA winner Nick McMillen, who is making his 24 Hours of Dubai debut this weekend.