Datsun/Nissan featured on track and in paddock display at Monterey Motorsports Reunion

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The Nissan GT-R50 by Italdesign was unveiled at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and will make its North American debut at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, where Nissan and Datsun are the featured marque | Nissan photos

Editor’s note: Follow all of the action and updates on our special Monterey Car Week page.


“The cool marine layer and dew-covered fescue of Pebble Beach creates a perfect stage for beautifully restored cars of significance,” is how Alfonso Albaisa phrased what happens at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. “But Nissan is a brand that is quite at home spending the week (Monterey Car Week) powering down the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca.”

Albaisa is the global head of design for Nissan, which will be the first Japanese automaker selected to be the featured marque for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion during Monterey Car Week 2018.

“Over the past 50 years, Nissan (and Datsun) has won more than 100 Sports Car Club of America National Championships and more than 200 races in the International Motor Sports Association competition in the U.S.,” the event host, WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca, said in a joint news release with Nissan North America.

But the Nissan/Datsun racing heritage predates its American racing success. 

Nissan also was the featured marque at the 2018 Classic Motorsports Mitty vintage races at Road Atlanta

“Since the first Nissan race win in 1936 in Tokyo with the supercharged Datsun NL-75, motorsports has been a core element of the company’s success — redefining the limits of man and machine, fostering ambition, stoking passion and cultivating a tireless drive for victory — all of which continues today,” Albaisa added. 

More than 50 Datsun and Nissan race cars are registered to take part in the reunion races at Laguna Seca. They include IMSA champion Steve Millen and his Daytona and LeMans class-winning Nissan 300ZX Turbo, John Morton driving the BRE Datsun 240Z, and comedian and car collector Adam Carolla driving his SCCA championships 300ZX Turbo originally raced by actor/racer Paul Newman.

A display in the race paddock will include the original BRE Datsun 510 driven by Morton to the 1971 and ’72 SCCA championships, the GTP ZX-Turbo that Geoff Brabham drove to eight consecutive race victories and the 1988 IMSA championship, and Bob Sharp’s four-time SCCA national championship-winning 240Z.

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The R382 won the 1969 Japanese Grand Prix

Nissan North America will showcase 14 vehicles from the corporate collection, three of them making U.S. debuts — the 1969 R382 that won the Japanese Grand Prix, the one-off R390 GT1 road car and the Nissan GT-R50 by Italdesign, a car recently unveiled at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

“The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion has honored a variety of legendary marques steeped in racing history since the event began in 1974,” Barry Toepke, vice president of communication and historic racing at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, said in the news release. “Never before has a Japanese automaker been so honored. 

“We wanted to change that course and feature Nissan and Datsun because the brands resonate internationally and have fully established their racing pedigree. We felt it was time to recognize and honor the Nissan brand for its past, present and future.”

Nissan Formula E race car

Speaking of the future, Nissan also will display its Formula E (electric-powered) race car. 

The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion features four days of on-track practice, qualifying and racing. 

More than 550 cars will compete in 15 classes on the 2.238-mile racing circuit known for its Corkscrew turn down from the top of the hill.  

While Nissan is the featured marque, the featured racing classes include 1967-84 Formula 1, 1968-74 Formula 5000, 1966-74 Can-Am, and cars that raced in the Trans Am and FIA Manufacturer’s Championship series.

The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion itself traces its heritage to the early post-war sports car races through the Del Monte Forest on the Monterey Peninsula. Competition moved to Laguna Seca after the purpose-built racing circuit was constructed on the former military base inland from the coast. 

Like the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the reunion is considered the pinnacle of its ilk in the Western Hemisphere.

Cars race down the steep but twisting Corkscrew turn at Laguna Seca
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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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