Based on Nissan’s latest road-going sportscar that was unveiled in August as a direct competitor to the Toyota Supra, the Z replaces the iconic GT-R that has been in service since the 2008 season.
The announcement marks the return of the Z moniker in Japan’s premier sportscar series for the first time in more than a decade, with Nissan having previously used the 350Z (Fairlady Z in some markets) as its GT500 base model for four seasons between 2004-07.
Nissan will hope that the introduction of the new Z will end its longest barren run in GT500, with the Yokohama based-manufacturer still chasing a first title since Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli triumphed in 2015 at the wheel of the NISMO-entered GT-R.
The brand has a history of successfully introducing new cars to the series, with the previous Z winning the title in its first year of competition in 2004 and the current-gen R35 GT-R repeating that feat four years later in ’08.
The Z will go up against the updated Supra and the revised Honda NSX Type S, which is expected to be launched in the coming months.
“The Nissan Z GT500 symbolizes Nissan’s spirit of taking on challenges and bringing excitement to life,” said Nissan COO Ashwani Gupta. “Through our racing efforts we continue to innovate our cars and we race to win with the same daring we have displayed so many times over the years.”
Nissan has yet to announce its driver line-ups for the 2022 season, but it will hold its annual driver shootout at Fuji on Monday to finalise its four crews.
While it will retain its winning combination of Matsuda and Quintarelli in the flagship NISMO car, and Katsumasa Chiyo and Kohei Hirate are likewise expected to stay at B-Max/NDDP, there could be a reshuffle at both Impul and Kondo Racing outfits.
After losing his Honda GT500 seat, Bertrand Baguette is likely to join Nissan’s stable as Kazuki Hiramine’s teammate at Impul, with Nobuharu Matsushita rumoured to be moving in the opposite direction after just a single season at Nissan.
Kiyoto Fujinami, who won the 2020 GT300 title alongside Joao Paulo de Oliveira with Kondo Racing, could be promoted to the team’s GT500 crew, replacing either Daiki Sasaki or Mitsunori Takaboshi.
End of the road for the Nissan GT-R
#23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
Sunday’s announcement marks the end of the GT-R’s spell as Nissan’s base model in GT500. First introduced in 2008, the car has gone through various iterations and engine changes, the most recent of which came last year with the advent of full Class One regulations.
Nissan achieved plenty of success with the R35 GT-R, winning the championship in its first season in 2008 and again in 2011-12 and 2014-15.
However, the car has struggled to be as competitive as its more contemporary rivals in recent years, leaving Nissan as a bit-part player against Honda and Toyota.
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Hiramine and Matsushita were Nissan’s top contenders in the championship this year, finishing seventh out of 15 crews in the Impul GT-R with a victory – the team’s first since 2016 – at Sugo. NISMO was the only other Nissan squad to claim a race win this year, at Suzuka.
While the Z will become Nissan’s new GT500 contender next year, it will continue to use the GT-R NISMO GT3 in the GT300 division for the foreseeable future.