Rick Kelly will lead a factory Nissan GT-R entry at the 2014 Bathurst 12 Hour as part of a new international driver exchange program launched by the Japanese firm today.
The Bathurst campaign, first floated by Nissan’s global motorsport boss Darren Cox in March, will be run by Nismo’s own factory team from Japan.
The manufacturer’s FIA GT3 specification GT-R already races in a number of GT series and events around the world.
The 12 Hour announcement follows Nissan’s return to Australian touring car racing this year with its Altima V8 Supercar, which is run by the formerly Kelly Racing team that Rick co-owns with brother Todd.
While a privately entered production GT-R has competed in the Bathurst 12 Hour previously, next year’s event will mark the first time that a factory GT-R has raced at Bathurst since the controversial 1992 Tooheys 1000.
“In selecting the Bathurst 12 Hour as a key part of our 2014 racing program, Nissan has further cemented Australasia as a critical element of our global motorsport plans,” said Cox.
“Mount Panorama is one of the world’s iconic racing circuits and the Nissan GT-R has incredible history there.
“We are pleased to be at Bathurst with Nissan Motorsport in V8 Supercars this October, and then again with the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 next February for the Bathurst 12 Hour.”
The Bathurst event will mark the first time that Kelly has raced something other than a V8 Supercar since the end of the 2001 Australian Drivers’ Championship.
Kelly, who will be joined by two yet-to-be-confirmed internationals for Bathurst, says he’s looking forward to contending for victory.
CLICK HERE for Speedcafe.com’s Cafe Chat with Kelly on the Bathurst news
“I haven’t competed in the Bathurst 12 Hour before, and for me, it’s because I haven’t had the right opportunity,” he said.
“Nismo has kept a very keen eye on our V8 Supercars program since we announced we were bringing Nissan back to the sport here in Australia.
“We’ve had strong and open dialogue with them and I think this is the start of what we can make happen in the future.
“The car will be capable of winning, and Nissan’s history at Bathurst is well documented, especially with the GT-R, aka ‘Godzilla’. We’ll be giving it our best shot.”
Nissan says that its global driver program will allow a selection of its SuperGT drivers to gain global experience, while the move of Spaniard Lucas Ordonez into the Japanese class has been announced with the reveal of the program.
“It is another step towards a truly global approach to our motorsport activities,” said Cox of the program, which will likely open doors for Kelly to do his own racing overseas in future.