Originating in 1997, the NISMO Festival is a celebration of Nissan performance, featuring plenty of go-fast, tricked-up and modified vehicles, including Silvias, GT-Rs and Z cars of all vintages.
The annual event is held at the impressive Mt Fuji International Speedway, located an hour and a half away from Yokohama. Situated near the base of the stunning, snow-topped Mt Fuji volcano, the enormous F1-standard property features an undulating and challenging track layout, together with outstanding team and spectator facilities.
Crowds of around 35,000 people pour through the gate and even with a national population of 213 million people, it’s difficult to comprehend that number of people attending an event to celebrate the tuning division of a single manufacturer.
Fans in the support paddock salivated over old school racing cars, made up predominantly of Datsun 110s (1200s), 210s, 510s (1600s) and Prince Skylines, and rushed to spectator areas to see them compete on track.
Several competition cars from the Nissan Heritage Centre also took to the track for high speed demonstration runs – including a glorious, bright yellow Nissan R382 race car from 1969.
Clothed in a lusciously curvaceous body, the car is powered by a monstrous mid-mounted 6.0-litre V12 that produces a deep, menacing rumble that reverberates throughout the entire facility.
We were soon ushered onto a bus for the curiously named Circuit Safari – an attraction where fans pay to travel the circuit while competition GT cars storm past at near race speed. The concept is inconceivable in Australia, and given that the officials appear over-zealous in all other areas of spectator safety, the Circuit Safari seems a little out of place in Japan, too.
Our run was cut short as, peering through the bus’ rear window, we witnessed a cloud of dust rise in the run off area at the end of the long, fast, front straight as a car fails to take the following hair-pin corner. It turns out the driver was a wealthy, gentleman racer and the car was a write off- his fourth for the year…
Australian Nissan V8 Supercars star, Michael Caruso, was also in attendance and took to the 4.5km track driving the Bathurst 12-Hour winning GT-R GT3.
Surprisingly, his ‘pre-flight’ instruction was limited to being shown the start switch location, but despite his unfamiliarity with the car and circuit, Michael acquitted himself well.
Unfortunately, the crew directed the Aussie into the pits just as he was coming to grips with the machine and circuit.
In the paddock (where you could buy a cappuccino in a can from a vending machine), merchants sold everything from tyres, wheels, turbo systems, seats, used competition brake components and die-cast models to expensive helmets and race suits formerly worn by race drivers. Showing no signs of succumbing to political correctness, scantily clad grid girls were in abundance.
The NISMO Festival’s much anticipated finale was an all-Nissan NISMO Grand Prix for current GT cars.
Pre-race, fans were granted amazing access to the vehicles and drivers on the grid. Considered superstars, the drivers were hounded for autographs and spectator selfies, which they gladly agreed to despite the impending race start.
Although considered a ‘friendly’, there’s no suggestion the drivers are taking things lightly, as evidenced when one GT-R driver speared off into the safety fence before reaching turn one on the formation lap.
The NISMO festival is a must-do event for any Nissan/Datsun fan, but even if you aren’t of that persuasion, it’s well worth a look anyway.
And who knows, after just one visit you may well leave the stunning Japanese venue as a newly-converted, dyed-in-the-wool Nissan aficionado.