Nissan Motor Co. and NISMO hold the “NISMO FESTIVAL at FUJI SPEEDWAY 2018 Supported by MOTUL” fan appreciation event on December 2nd. This year’s was the 21st holding of the NISMO FESTIVAL since the inaugural event in 1997 (cancelled in 2012). This year marked the memorable 60th anniversary of the start of Nissan global motorsport activities, bringing a full schedule of programs from appearances by the SUPER GT Nissan teams, drivers and cars to appearances by historic race drivers and cars that are an important part of the “Nissan Racing DNA” tradition as well as a showing of the car that will compete in the soon-to-start Formula E and a demonstration run by the electric race car Nissan Leaf NISMO. Although the Nissan teams fell short of their goal of winning back the SUPER GT title this season, there was still a festive mood of exchange between the 31,500 fans (3,500 more than last year) that showed up and the drivers and team members as they shared the conviction that next year it will be theirs for sure.
The day’s opening ceremony began early at 8:30 in the morning at the main stage in the event square. All of the participants, including the SUPER GT drivers and team managers were there for the ceremony. Tsugio Matsuda (No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R) addressed the crowd as the driver representative, followed by a speech NISMO’s Toshikazu Tanaka as the SUPER GT Nissan Team Executive Director. Both speakers apologized to the fans for not achieving their goal of winning back the title this season and promised to win it next season so they can share the joy with everyone at next year’s NISMO FESTIVAL.
At the back of the spectator stand, the passionate Nissan supporters waved their flags like they do in the season races, drawing a big round of appreciative applause from all the fans for all of the drivers and team members gathered on the stage. As the drivers left the stage at the end of the opening ceremony, they went down the “Kids High-touch Road” to exchange high-fives with all the excited kids and their guardians.
Circuit Safari/Racing Car Rides
Out on the track, attention then turned to the NISSAN Historic Car Exhibition Race featuring famous race machines of the past like the NISSAN GT-R that competed in the All Japan Grand Touring Car Championship (JGTC) and other machines that made Nissan and NISMO motorsport history. Then there was the “NISSAN Racing DNA” HISTORIC CAR DEMO RUN, held together with racing car rides and the Circuit Safari. In the Circuit Safari, SUPER GT team No. 23 manager Yutaka Suzuki and SUPER GT Nissan Team Executive Director Toshikazu Tanaka served as escorts, riding together with the fans and telling them about the behind-the-scenes action that goes on during the races.
Nissan Team Executive Director Toshikazu Tanaka served as escort in the Circuit Safari
The main stage was the scene of events like talk shows and the Race Queen stage show, with the talk show SUPER GT GT500 class being especially popular as always. Taking to the stage in this show were the eight drivers of the four SUPER GT GT500 class Nissan teams, and here too the fans were able to go up on stage and exchange high-fives with them all. Because compared to the autograph, photo and hand-shake session sessions, this show gives a larger number of fans the opportunity to interact with the drivers, it is an especially popular attraction at all NISMO events. All of the nearly 100 fans that participated clearly came away very satisfied with their experience.
In the “Pit Walk Simulation” held at the event square, there was a tire-change experience that
the participating fans could try with the assistance of driver Daiki Suzuki and the “pit men”
After the lunch break, a Grid Walk was held on the course. Then as the final event on the day’s program, the Racing GT-R Heritage Run cars were lined up on the starting grid, where participants could take pictures and get driver autographs standing by the cars. There were so many participants that they virtually filled the entire home straight, and many could be seen holding the signatures they had gotten from the drivers with big smiles of satisfaction.
During the GT season the No. 23 car sported different end plates for the rear wing livery,
and this time it was a special NISMO FESTIVAL one.
Before the Grid Walk, the FORMULA E DEMO RUN was held and Mitsunori Takaboshi, who was selected
as the reserve driver for the team, was the driver (Photo courtesy of NISMO).
NISMO GP 2018
The last run on the track was the “NISMO GP 2018.” The four NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT500 cars that competed this season in the SUPER GT GT500 class were joined by the four GT300 class NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT3 cars and by the GT-R and Fairlady Z cars competing in the Super Taikyu, making for a total of 15 cars running in the final “serious race” of the year.
The GT500 class teams were required to make a pit stop with a tire change and driver change as usual, while the GT300 class cars were required to make one pit lane drive-through, making this a “real” SUPER GT race. The pole-starting No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R made an all-out dash after the start. But the No. 24 Forum Engineering ADVAN GT-R stayed close to turn the contest into a match race. These two cars made their pit stop on the same lap, giving the action the same type of intensity in their designated pits as seen in a real season race. The first to emerge from the pit was car No. 23, and it ran on in the lead in front of the chasing No. 24 to win the race. This gave the happy Matsuda and Quintarelli their “second victory” at Fuji this season.
After the end of the “NISMO GP 2018” race, the cars ran a one-lap cool-down before returning to line up on the main straight. All the participants gathered together to share in the day’s finale. An awards ceremony was held for this year’s title winners and a bouquet was handed to Kazuki Hoshino in celebration of his recent marriage announcement to bring a special “family moment” to this year’s NISMO FESTIVAL that drew another big round of applause from the crowd in the grandstand.
The final speaker of the day was the NISMO CEO Takao Katagiri, who informed everyone that this year represents the memorable 60th anniversary of Nissan’s global motorsport activities, after which he too apologized for not being able to win back the SUPER GT title this year. He went on to talk about the new challenge beginning next year with the Formula E competition and the strong commitment of everyone to win back the SUPER GT title next year.
This was greeted by a boisterous Nissan call from the Nissan Supporter Club now concentrated in the front row of the stand, and the “Go, Go Nissan” board continued to be flashed until the last of the fans left the stand to the waving farewell from the drivers. With this passionate scene, the NISMO FESTIVAL 2018 came to a close.