After having a less-than-expected presence in 2014, Nissan is working towards an expanded effort in the U.S. this year, while also finalizing its search for a future American LMP1 driver.
Speaking with Sportscar365, NISMO’s global head of brand, marketing and sales Darren Cox confirmed the Japanese manufacturer’s intentions to compete in North America with its Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 car.
“We had a GT3 car on the stand at the SEMA show,” Cox told Sportscar365. “There’s an intention for us to be in the U.S. and we’re working on a number of options.
“We were very close last year and I think this year, the championships have settled down a bit. It’s clear what the benefits of the different championships are and it makes our decision easier.”
While Cox would not confirm it, all fingers point towards a Pirelli World Challenge effort, with Andretti Autosport understood to be finalizing a multi-car GT-R NISMO GT3 program.
Any prospects of seeing the GT-R compete in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship appear to be unlikely for this year, despite RJN Motorsport having created a GTD conversion kit for the car, which was due to be run by Muscle Milk Pickett Racing in 2014.
“We did the adaptation for the car to GTD, but the fact that you have to adapt the car [for the TUDOR Championship] makes it easier to be in Pirelli World Challenge, to be honest,” Cox said.
“The [TUDOR] Championship has to realize that if manufacturers are coming to their series, it can’t be the fourth class. Right now, it’s a difficult balance.”
Cox, however, wouldn’t rule out future involvement in the TUDOR Championship, particularly in the top Prototype class through its P2 engine supply program, although no Nissan-powered cars are scheduled to compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“Of course there’s an interest in TUDOR,” he said. “We were disappointed with our program with Muscle Milk ended. That was our partner over there and we’re looking at options.
“But LMP2 has always been a customer program that we place drivers in.
“Our approach going forward will be to focus on what we do with our American GT Academy graduates. If that means they should be in LMP2, then that’s where we’ll put them in the U.S.”
Part of that includes its active search to have an American driver in its factory FIA World Endurance Championship LMP1 program in 2016.
Cox said they expect to announce a finalist within the next two months, which would see the driver likely placed in a Nissan-powered LMP2 car this year to prepare for their chance for the possible LMP1 ride.
“We could choose someone and they could do a season of LMP2 and are not good enough,” Cox said. “We said we’re choosing people on their ability and not on their marketability.
“So if they’re not good enough, they don’t get in. But our aim is to give them every chance.”