To honor the 50th anniversary of a corporate involvement in motorsports that continues to this day, Nissan has been named the featured marque of this year’s 45th Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, scheduled for California’s Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on August 23-26.
The year was 1968 when Nissan captured the first of its two consecutive wins at the Japanese Grand Prix with the Nissan R381. In America, Bob Sharp was setting the tone for the future by winning the SCCA F Production Championship with his Datsun 1600 Roadster. In 1969, former Shelby American designer Peter Brock became the West Coast Datsun factory team with his Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE) outfit and his iconic BRE-liveried red, white and blue Datsun 2000 Roadsters. From 1970-’72, BRE, with driver John Morton at the wheel, won four national championships, two C Production Championships with their Datsun 240Zs and two Trans-Am 2.5 Championships with the BRE Datsun 510s.
From 1970 to 1975, Bob Sharp Racing dominated SCCA B Sedan and C Production with 10 podium finishes in 11 Runoffs races, as well as taking the IMSA GTU title in 1975. During these years, Sharp introduced actor and aspiring racer Paul Newman to his team, and Newman would drive Sharp-prepared Nissans to a pair of Trans-Am overall wins.
Nissan dominated IMSA racing in the late ’80s. In 1988, Geoff Brabham, usually partnered with Morton, took nine wins from 14 races, including eight straight! Nissan won the IMSA Manufacturers Championship in ‘88, ’89 and ’90.
Versatile New Zealander Steve Millen carried Nissan’s motorsports legacy into the 1990s in IMSA’s GTS category. Between 1990 and 1995, Millen scored 20 wins and 23 poles — both all-time marks for GTS — driving the No. 75 300ZX with a twin-turbo V6 engine for Clayton Cunningham. The winner of the 1992 and 1994 GTS Drivers Championships returned from injury in 1994 to capture overall victories at both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring while also winning his class at 24 Hours of Le Mans. To commemorate that dream season, Millen restored and drove the No. 75 300ZX at the 2014 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion Racing (above, photo courtesy Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca).
“This is the first time an Asian automaker’s racing heritage has been celebrated at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, and we are thrilled to welcome Nissan and its extensive racing history into the historic racing scene,” commented Gillian Campbell, senior VP of Laguna Seca. “From the early Datsuns to more modern day Nissans, their achievements have earned the respect of racers and deserve to be recognized.”
The annual gathering features 550 historic and period-correct vintage racecars competing on the 2.238-mile road course. Supporting the on-track racing is a bustling paddock that is open to everyone, Q&A sessions with some of the sport’s legends, special exhibition laps and a full marketplace of vendors exhibiting a wide range of automobilia and products. For motoring enthusiasts, there is no better place to be in the world than Monterey Classic Car Week.
The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion was recently recognized by the FIA, which awarded the FIA Founding Members’ Club Heritage Cup. It was bestowed to the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP), which manages the County of Monterey-owned Laguna Seca Recreation Area. It is the first time such an honor has been awarded to an organization in the United States.
For more complete information and tickets, please visit www.mazdaraceway.com