Nissan's Motorsports Milestones

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Apr 23, 2018 | Nissan | Posted in News and Notes , Features | Never miss an article

This story is published in the event program for the 2018 Classic Motorsports Mitty presented by Hagerty. This year’s event celebrates Nissan as the featured marque. Want to join in the fun? Find out more here.

Nissan’s competition roots go back almost as far as the company itself. Since a 1937 win at Japan’s Tamagawa Speedway, Nissan has set records, won championships, and made history around the globe. Here are just some of the company’s motorsports milestones.

1937: A team backed by the Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., recorded a race win at Tamagawa Speedway. Nissan was formed only three years earlier.

1962: Datsun 1500 driver Paul Jaremko gave Nissan their first SCCA race win.

1964: Nissan first advertised the development of factory competition parts for the American market.

1964: Bob Sharp and Tommy Allen both drove Datsun roadsters at the SCCA’s first American Road Race of Champions. (Both would score DNFs.)

1964: The Prince Skyline GT made its competition debut at the Second Japan Grand Prix at Suzuka. A Porsche 904 Carrera GTS took the overall win, but the Skyline sedans swept second through sixth place.

1966: Just before it became part of Nissan, the Prince Motor Co. unveiled its R380 prototype racer. Yoshikazu Sunako drove one to that year’s Japan Grand Prix championship.

1966: A Datsun Bluebird 1300SS finished first in the East African Safari.

1967: Brock Racing Enterprises, then a brand-new race team, entered a Datsun pickup in the very first Baja 1000. They finished the race.

1967: Bob Sharp claimed Nissan’s first SCCA Club Racing championship, winning the F Production race in a 1600 roadster.

1967: Datsun officially set up a U.S. competition department.

1968: World Champion Bob Bondurant opened his driving school. His initial fleet featured a Lola Can-Am racer, a Formula Vee single-seater and three Datsuns.

1968: Frank Monise claimed the SCCA’s D Production Pacific Coast championship in a Datsun 2000 prepared by Brock Racing Enterprises.

1968: The Can-Am-like Nissan R381 won the Japan Grand Prix while also claiming five of the top six positions.

1969: The Nissan R382, an evolution of the R381, held off a Porsche 917 to finish first and second at the Japan Grand Prix.

1969: John Morton put his Brock Racing Enterprises Datsun 2000 on the D Production pole at the SCCA American Road Race of Champions.

1969: The Nissan Skyline GT-R won in its competition debut, the JAF Grand Prix at Fuji Speedway.

1970: The Z-car won its first race, with a Fairlady 432Z winning Suzuka’s 1000-kilometer contest.

1970: Red Farmer won an IMSA RS race in a Datsun 510, giving the brand their first win in that series.

1970-’71: John Morton won back-to-back SCCA C Production titles in the Brock Racing Enterprises Datsun 240Z.

1971: Before becoming a professional driver, Gene Felton put his ex-Brock Racing Enterprises Datsun roadster on the D Production pole at the SCCA Runoffs.

1971-’72: John Morton drove the Brock Racing Enterprises Datsun 510 to back-to-back SCCA Trans-Am titles.

1971-’79: Datsun drivers claimed eight of nine SCCA B Sedan titles thanks to Bob Sharp, Dave Frellsen, Elliott Forbes- Robinson and Bill Coykendall.

1972: Nissan celebrated the Skyline GT-R’s 50th win as Kunimitsu Takahashi finished first at the Fuji 300km Speed Race.

1972: Bob McQueen held off the factory Triumph GT6 entries to win the SCCA D Production championship at Road Atlanta in his ex-Brock Racing Enterprises Datsun 2000 roadster. Jack Scoville and Jim Fitzgerald gave Datsun the class championships going back to 1969.

1972-’79: Datsun Z-car drivers Bob Sharp, Walt Maas, Elliott Forbes- Robinson, Logan Blackburn, Frank Leary and Paul Newman captured the SCCA C Production titles at Road Atlanta.

1973: Legendary actor Paul Newman made his SCCA Runoffs debut, finishing ninth in a Datsun 510 that was wrecked and rebuilt just days before the race.

1973-’79: Don Devendorf, Damon Pleasant and Dick Davenport gave Datsun seven consecutive SCCA C Sedan national titles. Devendorf won the 1973 championship in a Datsun 1200; after that, the B210 became the dominant car.

1974-’76: Datsun Z-car drivers Walt Maas, Bob Sharp and Brad Frisselle won three consecutive IMSA GTU driver championships.

1976: A group of Datsun employees established a new F/GT land speed record at Bonneville in a 240Z. That record would stand until 1985.

1979: Paul Newman won his first of four SCCA Club Racing national titles, taking the C Production win in a Datsun 280ZX.

1980: Haruhito Yanagida won his first Japan’s Super Silhouette championship in a Nissan Bluebird. He’d drive the car to another title in 1982.

1983: Masao Kamioka and Yoshimasa Nakahara drove a Nissan 300ZX to the All Japan Rally Championship series.

1984: The first issue of Auto-X magazine, predecessor to today’s Grassroots Motorsports, hit the stands. On the cover: a Datsun 240Z.

1984: Jim Fitzgerald won the SCCA GT1 title in a Nissan 300ZX Turbo. His 350-plus wins would make him the SCCA’s winningest driver.

1987: Elliott Harvey took the SCCA C Street Prepared autocross national championship in a Datsun 2000. Elliott and his brother Bill would eventually add eight more SCCA national titles to the tally.

1988-’91: Geoff Brabham claimed four straight IMSA GTP driver championships for Nissan in the GTP ZX-T, RC90C, NPT30 and NPT91.

1989: Bob Leitzinger drove a Nissan 240SX to the IMSA GTU drivers championship. His team would win four championships through 1994.

1990: The Nissan R90CK Group C prototype racer sat on the pole for 24 Hours of Le Mans.

1990-’93: The R32-chassis Nissan Skyline GT-R won every single Japanese Touring Car Championship contest.

1992: The Nissan R91CP won the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

1992: Nissan 300ZX driver Steve Millen captured his first IMSA GTO title.

1992-’96: Mark Youngquist and David Daughtery claimed five consecutive SCCA Showroom Stock B national championships with the Nissan Sentra SE-R, NX2000 and 240SX.

1994: The Nissan 300ZX won at Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans. The driver roster included Steve Millen, John Morton and Johnny O’Connell.

1995: When the Atlanta Region SCCA brought back the ARRC moniker as a Road Atlanta championship race for regional-level classes, Datsun 240Z drivers swept the Improved Touring S podium: Nick Craw, John Williams and Steve Clifton.

1998: The Nissan R390 GT1 finished third at Le Mans.

1998: The Skyline GT-R won the All- Japan GT Championship.

1999: Laurent Aïello drove a Nissan Primera GT to the British Touring Car Championship.

2001: Nobuteru Taniguchi drove an S15-chassis Nissan Silvia to win the first D1 drift championship.

2002: Infiniti became the spec engine supplier for the IRL Infiniti Pro Series, the successor to the Indy Lights program. Infiniti and Nissan would be the sole engine supplier through 2014.

2008: A Nissan GT-R Super GT won the Super GT Championship.

2011: Chad Hord drove a Nissan Leaf at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, setting the event’s initial record for electric vehicles.

2011: The Nissan GT-R NISMO GT1 won the FIA GT1 World Championship.

2011: Bryan Heitkotter beat more than 53,000 online competitors to win the Nissan PlayStation GT Academy. His reward: a professional ride with Nissan.

2012: The Nissan-powered DeltaWing made its competition debut at Le Mans.

2014: The hybrid-electric Nissan ZEOD RC was unveiled at Le Mans, becoming the first race car to record an all-electric lap there.

2014-’15: The Nissan GT-R NISMO GT500 won back-to-back Super GT championships.

2015: Nissan’s Micra Cup, a spec series for the brand’s small car, made its Canadian debut.

2015: Nissan fan and collector Adam Carolla celebrated Paul Newman’s racing career with the documentary “Winning: The Life of Paul Newman.”

2016: Thanks to Derek Kulach’s Touring 3 win in a 350Z, Nissan claimed their 100th SCCA Club Racing national title–a record string of championships.

2016: In just their second race after switching to a Nissan Altima, Owen Trinkler and Sarah Cattaneo won the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge ST contest at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

2016: Masato Kawabata set a Guinness World Record for the fastest drift: 190 mph in a 1361-horsepower, rear-wheel-drive Nissan GT-R.

2017: The Nissan DPi made its IMSA debut, winning the Petit Le Mans.

2017: Derek Kulach won his second straight SCCA Touring 3 championship, this one coming in a Nissan 370Z.

2017: The PACC Racing team of Andrew, Paula, Calvin and Cameron Nelson became the first Grassroots Motorsports $2000 Challenge effort to break into the 9s, pushing their Datsun 260Z down the quarter-mile in just 9.521 seconds.

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LD71 New Reader
4/25/18 10:35 a.m.

Love this re-cap, quite a list of accomplishments. 

A little jarring to see the lead photo, the 44 car, in light of all the great battles between Datsun racers and the Group 44 British Leyland cars!

Congrats to all the Datsun/Nissan drivers & teams, wish I could be at the Mitty!


te72 Reader
4/25/18 11:31 p.m.

Quite the pedigree indeed. I knew about a lot of it already, but was nice to fill in some blanks.


Notably absent, the JUN Auto Bonneville land speed record attempt car. That one recently sold at auction for a bargain...

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