Go you good things! Waving flags to Nismo motorsport success

Members of the Nissan Supporters Association wave their flags as GT-R race cars flash down the Fuji Speedway straight.
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Members of the Nissan Supporters Association wave their flags as GT-R race cars flash down the Fuji Speedway straight.

These men must be really strong.

Every time a Super GT motorsport race meet is held in Japan, they line up in the front of the circuit's grandstand like samurai warriors, poised with big colourful flags on the ends of very long poles.

Suddenly one or more Nissan GT-R race cars will come howling down the straight - prompting the men to start frantically waving their flags. The action continues for the entire race too, which must represent a real workout for them all. As we said, these men must be really strong.

A feature of the Nismo Festival is the public can get up and personal with the GT-R racers - and the pit girls.
ROB MAETZIG/FAIRFAX NZ

A feature of the Nismo Festival is the public can get up and personal with the GT-R racers - and the pit girls.

They're all members of a special cheering squad called the Nissan Supporters Association, who for the past 20 years have been waving their flags at every major motorsport event.

READ MORE: Nismo cars the stars at Nissan media 360 showcase

 
Historic Nissan/Datsun racing was a big attraction at Fuji.
ROB MAETZIG/FAIRFAX NZ

Historic Nissan/Datsun racing was a big attraction at Fuji.

Appropriate then that in December Takao Katagiri, the chief executive of Nissan's in-house tuning, motorsports and performance division that is known to one and all simply as Nismo, presented the cheering squad with a certificate of appreciation and a DVD containing messages of thanks from the race drivers.

Appropriate too that this presentation was made at a special annual event called the Nismo Festival - because that's been going for almost 20 years too.

Location for the festival is Fuji Speedway, high in the foothills of Japan's Mt Fuji.

More than 35,000 fans crammed into Fuji speedway to check out what was on display.
ROB MAETZIG/FAIRFAX NZ

More than 35,000 fans crammed into Fuji speedway to check out what was on display.

Built in the 1960s, over the years the track has hosted a wide range of motorsport events, from Formula 1 to drifting. A special feature is that it boasts one of the longest straights in the world, a 1.5km stretch of tarmac that allows drivers to get to more than 300kmh before braking hard to take on a breath-taking downhill right-hander.

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Down one side of this straight there's the grandstand that overlooks both the tarmac and the pits area. And at the 2016 Nismo Festival that's where the members of the Nissan Supporters Association stationed themselves, ready to again wave their flags as the GT-Rs shot past.

The Nismo festival really is a fascinating event, an occasion that adds to the almost legendary status of Nismo and the vehicles it creates, especially the GT-Rs which even in standard form are among the fastest supercars in the world.

Strange displays at the Nismo Festival.
ROB MAETZIG/FAIRFAX NZ

Strange displays at the Nismo Festival.

This year more than 35,000 people braved cold conditions to visit every conceivable thing to do with Nismo - see the cars, witness them in action, meet the drivers, even ride in a circuit taxi (a bus) around the Fuji circuit while the racing GT-Rs flashed past, shop at a massive number of stalls selling everything from Nismo parts to food.

This year's festival was doubly important because it also helped celebrate the Fuji Speedway's 50th birthday.

It's a circuit that has progressed from being very dangerous in the mid-1960s thanks primarily to a poorly designed banked turn at the end of the home straight, to being redesigned in the early 2000s which resulted in Fuji hosting an F1 championship event in 2007.

Nismo racing for the children included these slot cars.
ROB MAETZIG/FAIRFAX NZ

Nismo racing for the children included these slot cars.

These days Fuji hosts a range of race meets including rounds of the Super GT Championship - the series that is dominated by three of Japan's most high-performance cars - the Lexus RC-F, Honda NSX, and of course the Nissan GT-R.

Nismo has been around for more than 30 years following the merger of two Nissan motorsport divisions. One of its first projects was development of the inaugural Skyline GT-R for both racing and road use.

Today there is a wide range of Nismo vehicles of all sizes, even as small as the Nismo March (Micra in New Zealand) and Juke. Many owners belong to an organisation called Club Nismo which had its own carpark at Fuji, which at the festival was filled with possibly the biggest collection of privately-owned GT-Rs you'll ever see.  

A visitor checks out Nismo used parts on sale.
ROB MAETZIG/FAIRFAX NZ

A visitor checks out Nismo used parts on sale.

With due respect to other Nismo product which includes the spectacular 370Z coupe, it's the GT-R that is most associated with the performance organisation.

That was clearly obvious at the Nismo Festival. Fans gathered around the pits area and regularly had their ears assaulted by the exhaust note of the GT500 and GT3 race cars as they were prepared for action on the Fuji circuit.

As the day progressed many of Nissan/Datsun's former race cars had fun on the track, and there was a 'heritage' run by numerous vehicles that have been a part of Nissan's motorsport history.

Then it was the turn of the modern-day racers. Festival organisers allowed 30 minutes for the public to walk the circuit's starting grid and view the cars. Then the track was cleared, the members of the Nissan Supporters Association got ready with their flags, and the cars were off.

It wasn't long before the cars screamed down that long home straight, the sound of the GT500 engines reverberating through the grandstand, the members of the association enthusiastically waving their flags as the racers shot past. 

What a great way to celebrate a  year in which Nissan enjoyed success on the world motorsport stage, including winning five out of eight races in Super GT in Japan, saying farewell to LM P2 prototype racing with championship wins in the FIA World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series, as well as taking racing wins in major championships in both Australia and the US.

And what a great way to help celebrate 20 years of the Fuji Speedway. It was thoroughly worth waving lots of big flags.

 

 - Stuff

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