This weekend will the first page of a new chapter for Nissan in motorsport (and a new chapter for racing as a whole) when four Nissan GT-Rs line-up in Abu Dhabi for the start of the FIA GT1 World Championship.
Two different teams – Sumo Power and Swiss Racing Team – will each campaign a pair of the Japanese sportscars, one of three designs produced specifically for the new championship and now ready for tilt at the title after a development year last season with Gigawave Motorsport.
However, with Essex-based Gigawave shutting its doors over the winter the Nissan challenge now falls to Swiss Racing Team and newcomers Sumo Power GT.
That fact makes all the more astonishing the calibre of talent that the British based team have been able to assemble, bringing Japanese Super GT series veterans Peter Dumbreck and Michael Krumm together in one car and Jamie Campbell-Walter and Warren Hughes – another pair with both sportscar and touring car experience in the other.
But despite the driving line-ups team manager Allen Orchard is remaining realistic in what he expects the team to achieve on debut. This weekend is a step into the unknown for us. I don't have a crystal ball but I would be very happy with a respectable top ten finish,” he said. “As a team we have completed four tests to prepare for this season. Considering the team was only born in late January I think we are doing a good job, especially when you consider what it takes to put together a racing team.”
The more experienced Swiss Racing Team, last seen providing technical support to Jetalliance Racing, have poached Karl Wendlinger from the Austrian team to lead its team in no.3 car alongside Swiss Henri Moser. 2004 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Seiji Ara and Max Nilsson will pedal the no.4 entry.
“I love the GT-R,” said Ara. “It is very special to me and also to the Japanese people. I am also very happy to be racing in the FIA GT1 World Championship. When you put those two things together it makes the perfect job for me.”
The FIA GT1 World Championship will kick off its ten weekend world tour at the facility that closed last year's Formula One campaign with two races on Saturday – an hour long qualifying race where only the top three finishers receive points followed by another 60-minute race, this time with points being awarded on the same scale as Formula One.
You can follow the racing online at www.gt1world.com, including live streaming of the two races.