The Nismo Athlete Global Team has arrived at Mount Panorama – and in doing so, has officially brought ‘Godzilla’ back to Bathurst.
The last time a factory-entered Nissan GT-R raced at Bathurst was in 1992, when Jim Richards and Mark Skaife earned their second-consecutive Bathurst 1000 victory for Nissan.
This weekend at the 2014 Bathurst 12 Hour, Nissan will aim to repeat that success with a line-up of four drivers from across the globe.
The team’s Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3, as well as drivers Rick Kelly (Australia), Alex Buncombe (England), Wolfgang Reip (Belgium) and Katsumasa Chiyo (Japan), were unveiled in pit lane at the Mount Panorama circuit today.
International drivers Buncombe, Reip and Chiyo are more familiar with the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 but are each making their Bathurst debut. The trio are already in awe of the 6.213km circuit after walking Mount Panorama with Kelly upon arrival. Along with Kelly, they are excited at the thought of driving the GT-R around the mountain in the first practice tomorrow (Friday) morning.
The Bathurst 12 Hour is Australia’s premier GT sportscar endurance race, with the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 set to compete against 18 other GT3-specification cars in the outright class. Over 40 cars will race in the ‘once around the clock’ event beginning Sunday morning.
Nismo athlete Global Team – driver quotes
Rick Kelly (Australia), Nismo Athlete Global Team, #32 Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3
“Even just standing here in pit lane the car looks incredible,” said Rick Kelly.
“I had my first drive of it at Sepang a little over a week ago and it’s quite an incredible car.
“For me it’s an iconic weekend. It’s the first time a GT-R in this sort of form has been here in 22 years since Jim Richards (and Mark Skaife) won the Bathurst 1000 in the GT-R in that famous race back in 1992.
“I am treating this race as seriously as I possibly can. I am putting my head down and backside up to try and get a result because it’s obviously very different racing to what I’m used to (in V8 Supercars).
“The Nismo factory operation is really impressive. For me it has been a real eye opener to see how they go about their motorsport and you can see that in how well the car is presented. It’s really impressive and for me this is a really big learning experience as well.
“I’m not quite sure exactly what to expect. I don’t know the competition that well but there are a lot of really quick cars up and down pit lane and the GT-R is no exception to that. If we do a really good job on the weekend and stay out of trouble then we should be in for a really good shot to bring the GT-R home on top.
“I think the Nissan team has got a really good balance of drivers who have got a lot of experience in the GT-R Nismo GT3 and then myself having a lot of experience of this track. So we can really help each other out throughout the weekend and with the collective car and track knowledge that we have got, hopefully we can turn that into a really good result.”
Alex Buncombe (England), Nismo Athlete Global Team, #32 Nissan GT-R Nismo GT-3
“It’s a total dream for me to be here,” said Alex Buncombe.
“I never expected it. When I got the call to say I was going to be racing at Bathurst it was an unbelievable feeling.
“It’s one of those tracks I’ve always wanted to do. We walked around the track with Rick and he gave us some pointers. The only thing we can compare this to in Europe is the Nurburgring.
“Until we get out there it’s going to be a totally new kettle of fish for us. I’m not sure what to expect but all us guys from Europe do know the car, but we are going to have to get used to the circuit. We’ve only got about three hours of practice on the circuit so we will need as much time in the car as we can get.
“It’s massive for Nissan. The last time the GT-R was here was 22 years ago so there is going to be a lot of emotion for the guys back in Japan for the GT-R to be back here. Let’s hope we can do them proud.
“There are a lot of good teams here and there are some really fast guys here. We’ve got our work cut out for us for sure, but all four of us should be pretty quick out there. We are all experienced drivers, we’ve just got to keep it out of the wall and keep out of trouble.
“The car should be extremely reliable, which is going to be important for the 12 Hour, we’ve just got to do the best we can as a team.”
Wolfgang Reip (Belgium), Nismo Athlete Global Team, #32 Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3
“My feelings are awesome as I’ve never been in such a beautiful place,” said Wolfgang Reip.
“To be able to represent Nissan and compete in an international race like this in the Nismo Athlete Global Team is a nice surprise.
“The track looks really great. We have walked it and it’s extremely impressive and I’m excited about driving here this weekend.
“It’s going to be a really big challenge, especially with the traffic and the walls being so close.
“We need to stay out of trouble, be consistent and work as a team. I think if we can put everything together we can have a good race.
“Twenty-two years ago a Nissan GT-R won here at Bathurst, so we are going to try our best to perform as well as that. There are a lot of very good drivers and very professional teams here. The level will be quite high so there will be a lot of competition.”
Katsumasa Chiyo (Japan), Nismo Athlete Global Team, #32 Nissan GT-R Nismo GT-3
“This is very exciting for me. It’s my first time coming to Australia to race, so my first time to Bathurst,” said Katsumasa Chiyo.
“I walked this track and looked up at all those corners up there, which are blind and up and down, so very challenging and very exciting.
“I know the GT-R Nismo GT3 from racing it in Japan and have experience with it. This car has good performance and coming here we are hoping for a good result.
“I have great team-mates for this event. Firstly, Rick Kelly has so much experience at Bathurst and has won here many times.
“Alex and ‘Wolfie’ have a lot of experience in Europe in GT3 so we make a great team.”