Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Nissan to Abandon All North American Racing Programs?

I didn't believe it when I read speculation Tuesday on that Nissan would halt all North American factory-backed racing programs for fiscal year 2008. It certainly sounded like far-fetched rumor. If nothing else, it's inconsistent with the launch of their flagship GT-R, considering Nissan's position in the enthusiast marketplace.

But thenJalopnik again posted confirming the rumored pullout as fact, citing an interview with Scott Vazin, Director of Product Communications for Nissan Motor Company.

What does this decision mean for Nissan, and for U.S. racing? Frankly, I'm unclear if this is really major news or just a bump in the road that will be forgotten in a year's time. Nissan reps I contacted either hadn't heard about the matter or weren't reachable for comment.

The biggest single racing program that will be axed are the factory-sponsored Nissan trucks that compete in the CORR off-road series. Beyond that, we're talking about some scattered sports car racing programs, drifting, and presumably some SCCA contingency programs. Nobody has been able to confirm how big of a total package North American motorsports are dollars-wise for the company.

The real question is this: does this decision mean Nissan is no longer interested in motorsport? Of course not. Nissan has been a supporter of racing for decades, and if I had to put my money on a bet, I'm sure they'll be back in some form, sooner rather than later. Speculation abounds that they're planning to come out big with a stateside GT-R racing program, details TBA, and that would seem to fit with their corporate strategy.

So, enthusiasts, don't poo-poo them yet. I think they've got something up their corporate sleeve, and we'll just have to wait and see what that may be.

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