Why Nissan’s new Z car could be its next GT500 challenger
September 16, 2020
Nissan’s Z Proto is the successor to the 370Z, launched back in 2008, and pays homage to the manufacturer’s line of ‘Z’ machinery dating back to the 240Z of the 1970s. It boasts a three litre twin-turbo V6 engine, although power output has yet to be revealed.
While it’s worth noting that the Z Proto is not the final production model, it has been tipped to go on sale as early as next year, potentially with the ‘400Z’ moniker.
As far as SUPER GT goes, it’s no secret that the current-generation Nissan GT-R is old – in fact, launched back in 2007, it will celebrate its 13th birthday in December. The GT-R has been the base model for Nissan’s GT500 cars since the 2008 season, in which time it has gone through no fewer than five iterations, updated in line with the evolving regulations.
By contrast, the NSX has served as Honda’s GT500 base model only since 2017 (albeit in 2014-16, the outwardly similar ‘NSX Concept’ was used), while SUPER GT fans will hardly need reminding that the Toyota GR Supra is in its first year of GT500 competition.
The current GT-R should remain in service at least until the end of the 2022 season, but with a fresh rules cycle commencing in 2023, it seems likely that Nissan would leap on the opportunity to introduce a new base model if there were a suitable one available.
While the GT-R brand name still carries plenty of weight with fans worldwide, it should be remembered Nissan retired the iconic R34 GT-R at the end of the 2003 JGTC campaign and ushered in the 350Z, which went on to win the title in 2004 with Satoshi Motoyama and Richard Lyons, and spent four seasons in service before the current GT-R came along.
Nissan Fairlady Z: Satoshi Motoyama, Richard Lyons
Using the new Z would also put Nissan in line with the Supra, which sits in the same segment of the market and whose low, sleek bodywork appears to be an ideal fit for the current GT500 regulations, which make use of a common tub.
Looking at the timeline of the Supra, it was officially unveiled in January 2019, a year ahead of the GT500 version making its race debut. So, assuming a similar timeframe, a production version of a new Nissan sportscar would ideally be rolling off the production lines no later than early 2022 – which appears to make the Z the only option in the short-term.
There have been plenty of rumours that a new GT-R is in the works, but depending on who you believe, this may not arrive until the latter half of the decade. Indeed, recent Japanese media reports suggest that the current R35 platform will be given one last hurrah with a special ‘final edition’, potentially coming along in 2022.
NISMO, the motorsport arm of Nissan, is remaining tight-lipped on the matter. Approached for comment, a NISMO spokesperson would only say: “Regarding the base model, we will announce when the right time comes.”
It might be a while until Nissan announces anything official, but considering its age it would certainly come as little surprise to see the current GT-R retired after 2022, and the Z moniker entering GT500 battle once again in the years to come.