The Racing History of Datsun



I'll be a little blunt here. When you think of Datsun and Nissan, you think more of family sedans than sports cars, more of rust than racing.

Would it surprise you to know that Nissans and Datsuns hold a manufacturers record of over 80 SCCA racing titles? That they have not only competed at Le Mans, but they have won it. That they won Daytona not just 4 times, but 4 years in a row? That Nissan sports cars, sedans, and Prototype racers have over 200 IMSA Victories?

Or that Datsuns have won the worlds toughest rally, the Safari Rally, at least 7 times outright, with even more podium finishes than that. That their cars and trucks have over 20 off road titles under their steel belts?

Then hold on, because this part of Nissans history is going to blow your doors off.

70 years of Speed and Victory






The first recorded race wins by a Datsun I can find are in 1936 in Japan. A Datsun Midget took the checkered flag at the Japan Motor Vehicle Competition at Tamagawa Speedway. The Midget was powered by at 747cc engine. Datsun cars were probably raced in Japan throughout the 30's and right up until the Second World War.

After the War, car production didn't begin again until 1947. Nothing very sporty was built until 1952, when the Datsun unveiled the DC-3 roadster. This car was more rugged than fast, but was raced at the club level in Japan.


Nissan took Cedrics to Macau and Australia in the early 60's for internationally sanctioned races. They entered the East African Safari and took it by force(see separate section).

Nissan did well in Japanese racing with their Prince R380, R381, and R382 Group 7 grand prix cars. The story of the development of the R380 is interesting. It actually started as a defeat for the Prince Motor Company in the 1964 Japanese Grand Prix, the same race that saw victory for Nissan in the Touring Sedan


R381's and 2's

Dr. Sakuri of Prince took his Skyline GT's out to race at the 64 GP, only to have them defeated by a privately entered Porsche. Immediately after the race, Dr. Sakuri set up the Prince Motoring Club and began development of the R380. The original car used a Lola chassis as its platform, with 2.6 liter 6 cylinder Prince engine as its powerplant.

The car was ready to race for the 66 Japanese GP, held on May 3 of that year. It creamed the competition, taking 1st, 2nd, and 4th places, with a Toyota V8 landing in the third spot. This was the last year these cars were raced as Princes. Nissan took over the company in August of that year.

Nissan let Dr. Sakurai continue with the development of the R380's, which turned out to be a wise move. At the 1967 Grand Prix, second generation R380's took spots 2,3,4, and 6, with Porsche Carreras filling in the blanks.

In 1968, a closed coupe R380 set an E class world record with an average speed of 251 kph over 200 miles. Third generation r380's and the all new V12 r381's were supposed to race in the 68 Jap GP, but there was a small snag. The 6 cylinder 380's were ready, but the V12 for the R381 was not. So what does a good racer do? Get another engine of course! Dr. Sakurai flew to California and bought a few Chevy V8's from famed engine builder Dean Moon. Three 6 cylinder R380's and three 430ci Chevy V8 R381's raced in 68...and won! A Chevy powered V8 Nissan took first, with another taking 6th, and the Nissan 380's taking 3,4 and 5th places. The last car suffered severe clutch damage early in the race and still managed to beat the competition.



V12 R382


The Nissan V12, basically a melding of 2 inline 6's was ready for 1969 when Motoharu Kurosawa took the checkered flag in the R382. Environmental concerns killed the program that year, but it didn't really matter, Nissan just brought the Z cars to the GP and won three years straight starting in 1971.
The Z Cars wouldn't be the only ones ot make thier mark, the Skyline Gt-r's would make a litte noise of their own in the years to come.

Datsuns take America





Training roadsters at Bondurant school


Datsuns started winning in The States in the early 60's. Datsun's unofficial US competition department started out as a few guys from around the office preparing cars on their own time. They had the blessing of Nissan USA President Yutaka Katayama, "Mr. K", with the strict rule that all racing projects must be done on their own time.

Jean Le Plant of Nissan USA was one of the first to take a US Datsun past the checkered flag, with a win at the Palm Springs airport 1963. Le Plant and Benny Ackermann modified a SPL212 roadster with a 1300 cc engine for the race, took it to the track, and ran it by themselves without the benefit of a pit crew. They continued to do this for several years, with a succession of different cars.


Left to right Lee Wylie, Dick Roberts, and Tom O'Connor of Nissan's competition department


By 1964 things were really starting to heat up. Paul Jaremko, a race driver and Datsun dealer from Spokane, won fourteen consecutive races in a SPL310 roadster. A future Datsun dealer, Bob Sharp, started taking championships on the East Coast that same year.



Sharp, who eventually became a Datsun dealer in Wilton, Connecticut, won a regional event at Lime Rock, took a national race at Thompson, Connecticut, and then qualified for the ARRC race at Road Atlanta. (see separate Bob Sharp history)

1966 saw Datsuns real entrance in American racing. A SPL310 roadster won the G production race at the LA County Fair... and roared past all the "higher performance" H modified cars in the field. At Vineland, New Jersey, Bob Sharp raced at the SCCA National Championships in 1500 and 1600 roadsters. Datsun also started financially supporting racers, handing out 11,000 dollars to a small group of racers.


In 1967 Datsuns financial support for racing teams doubled to 22 grand, but with more racers getting a slice. Bob Sharp wins the SCCA F Production championship that year, giving Nissan it's first of a record setting number of SCCA Championships.

1967 was also the year that Mr. K and Nissan Exec Lee Wylie recruited Dick Roberts, a Porsche racer and mechanical engineer from Colorado, to head up their official competition department. Roberts had spent 1966 towing his Datsun racecar 70,000 miles to compete in 34 different events.

Dick Roberts and 5 other employees, became the competition department. Roberts decided that Datsuns competition department was going to make it easy for the average guy to race his Datsun. He wanted owners to be able to walk into any Datsun dealership, or make a phone call, and have all the parts they needed off the shelf, or as soon as possible. And it wasn't just about parts; anyone could call the competition department and get top rate technical advice. Roberts philosophy, and that of Nissan USA, was that while it was great if the factory team won, it was just as great if the privateer racer won in a Datsun. You let the little guys have the parts and knowledge, and you'll have Datsuns winning everywhere, not just at the big factory marquee events. At its peak, the department was taking over 100 phone calls a day, many of them handled by Dick Roberts himself.

Other than supporting the roadster cause, one of their first projects was the new 510 sedan with its new overhead cam L series engine. They imported SSS heads and other parts from Japan, and used their considerable combined racing and engineering experience to come up with innovative modifications. The parts developed early on would be put to use with much success later on in the early Z cars.


Datsun Dominates





In 1968, a former Carroll Shelby employee, Pete Brock, the B in BRE(Brock Racing Enterprises), started racing Datsuns. Brocks' red, white and blue 2000 Roadster with John Morton driving(also a former Shelby employee), took the C Production Championship at Road Atlanta that year. Both BRE and BSR picked up the Datsun flag again in 1970, this time with the new 240z.

Back in Japan the Fairlady 432Z wins for the first time at the 1970 Suzuka 1000km race. It was soon replaced by the 240zg long nose racer.



432z(4 cylinders,3 valves per, 2 cams)


1970 was also the year of another new arrival on the racing scene, the IMSA. The International Motor Sports Association was a step up from the club level racing that the SCCA provided. IMSA's founder, John Bishop, wanted something a little more professionally run than SCCA, and he wanted to help support successful teams with prize money.

SCCA racing up to that point had been done mostly for the glory. SCCA prizes were generally under 300 dollars. IMSA wanted to attract big sponsors, and the big money that came with them.


Camel GTU Z photo's c. Keith Bailey


IMSA started out with four simple classes; GT for cars over 2.5 liters, GTU for cars under 2.5 like the original Z cars and highly modified 510's, RS(racing stock) for sedans like the 510, 610, and 710, and AAGT class. 2.4 liter Z's won Camel GTU Championships in 1974,75 and 76. George Alderman took RS class in 71 in a 510, and took it again in 74 in a 710. Before IMSA even started the RS class for sedans, they did preview series that Red Farmer won in his 510.


Bob Sharps original Z car, over a dozen years later his son Scott Sharp, now an IRL driver, swould race it to 2 SCCa titles of his own.


Z cars actually started racing in major US races before the 510. Bob Sharp Racing and and BRE both started campaigning 240z's in 1970, with John Morton taking C Production in 70 and 71, and Bob Sharp taking 72 and 73. This was the beginning of what would be a ten year championship dynasty for the Z car in SCCA C Production.


510's stepped up to the Trans Am 2.5 series with BRE after the season start in 1971. John Morton won 6 of the 9 races he entered that year in the BRE 46 car, and took the Manufacturers title for Datsun.

Japanese 240z's won the Singapore Grand Prix GT, the Selangor GP, and the Japanese Grand Prix, the first of three straight victories for the Z in that race.

August 1971 saw the introduction of the 510 as the official pace car of the Ontario motor speedway. At the press conference to unveil the car, a couple of reporters asked the driver of the pace car if the lowly 510 was going to be able to keep ahead of the racecars. The driver replied, tongue in cheek, that though he probably couldn't win, he thought he could hold them off for a couple of laps.



Morton and the BRE 510 were back in 72 to take 6 of 10 races entered. Nissan had transferred its focus to the 510 because the 240z was already selling so well. Several 240z's were racing but BRE and Bob Sharp to some degree were asked to push the sedan instead.

For a good example of just how much Datsuns dominated the racing scene in the 70's, just look at the 72 ARRC race at Road Atlanta.

B Sedan(Trans Am style cars)
1st Bob Sharp 510
2nd Walt Maas 510
3rd Jim Fitzgerald 510
4th Carl Fredericks BMW
5th Lothar Stahlberg 510

C sedan
spots 1-3 Austin C's
4th Jim Hensel Datsun 1200

C Production
1st Bob Sharp 240z
2nd Bob Tullius Triumph
3rd Jim Fitzgerald 240z
4th Al Holbert Porsche
5th Jim Gammon 240z
6th Ron Mcfarlin 240z

D production(roadsters)
1st Robert McQueen Datsun 2000 roadster
2nd B Fuersteneu Triumph
3rd Dan Parkinson Datsun roadster
4th Kirk Allegro Datsun roadster
5th Tom Costello Datsun roadster
6th Don Herman Datsun roadster

Brock calls it quits in 1973, after his demands for a long term contract go unanswered. Datsuns factory teams become Bob Sharp Racing on the East Coast, and Electromotive on the West Coast. Electromotive, the creation of Don Devendorf and former Brock employee John Knepp, would go on to win numerous races for Nissan.

1974 saw another first for a Datsun. The motorheads at Nissan USA put together a stock B210, with a few extras, and took it out to the speed trials at Bonneville Salt Flats. After ten weeks of after hours preparation, the teams efforts were rewarded with a new world class record of 121.871 miles per hour... in a B210!

Walt Maas and his 260z win the SCCA C production title, and then wins the IMSA GTU title in a 240z. A legendary British Z, Big Sam, driven by Win Percy and built by Samuri Motor Co. wins the 1974 BARC Modsports Championship.


Gearge Aldermans RS 710


The 1975 ARRC at Road Atlanta was another stellar show for Datsun. B210's swept C sedan, taking the top 5 spots, led by Don Devendorf of Electromotive. The B Sedan Class was almost as good with a 710 first, 610 second, and Datsuns sewing up spots 4 to 8. 280z's took the top four spots in C Prod, with Bob Sharp leading the pack.


Hans Schuller, Edgar Herrmann's Safari Rally co-driver, entered this 240z at LeMans

Z cars were entered for the first time in two very prestigious events that year, at Le Mans with Hans Schuller of Safari fame and teammates Andre Haller and F Benoit Maechler finishing 26th after severe differencial problems. A Z was entered at Spa with the team of Delbar, Rubens, and Miroux.


Brad Frisselle driving Z for the Sharp team


In 1976 Datsun once and for all erased any doubt that they were the choice of champion racing teams. Datsuns won a total of 455 races and rallies, seven national championships, and 3 manufacturers titles. Datsun Z cars won 79 percent of all national races in C Production, with Elliot Forbes Robinson taking the title. Brad Frisselle, in a Electromotive engineered 280z wins the 76 IMSA GTU championship. 510's, 610's and 710's won 80 percent of all B sedan races. B-210's took 60 percent of the C Sedan races. Even the long out of production 1600 and 2000 roadsters kicked butt in D and G production. Datsun won numerous rally championships, in both cars and trucks. Jim Connor won the Baja 1000 in his mini truck. A Z car set a new speed record in F/GT class at Bonneville with a 166.037 mph run. Datsun even showed up at the NHRA, with Paula Murphy lighting up the wheels on her highly modified Datsun.


Paula Murphy


Logan Blackburn finally wins the SCCA C production title in 1977, 6 years after buying his 240z, now a 280z from BRE. Dale Fazekas wins the SCCA's new showroom stock class in 280z. Don Devendorf of Electromotive kills a few giants taking the 1977 RS class(international sedan) with nine victories in 1.4 liter B210.


Pleasant's B210


Frank Leary takes the top spot on the podium for the 1978 C prod title, in his Fremont Datsun 280z.


Daytona Z

Paul Newman introduces the new 280zx to the winners circle in 1979 taking his Budweiser-Canon-Pioneer sponsored Bob Sharp racing car to the C production Championship. Newman refuses to take money for driving, receiving beer from Budweiser in leiu of a paycheck. Don Devendorf and his Electromotive 280zx win the IMSA GTU title with 9 wins in 13 races.



At the peak of Datsuns involvement in US auto racing, there were over 800 independent racing and rally teams driving in the States, and thousands more weekend warriors doing the same at the local level. Legendary Drivers like Walt Maas, Bob Sharp, Elliot Forbes-Robinson, Paul Newman, John Morton and Frank Leary killed Porsches, Alfa's, BMW's and Corvettes in their Z's. Drivers like Sam Posey, Rob McFarlin, Hershel McGriff, Dave Frellsen, Casey Mollett, Don Devendorf, and George "splash" Kord triumphed in Datsuns in the IMSA and SCCA . Frank Ball and Ron Thompson made 510's fly to victory at the Score Baja 500, with Jim Conner making minitrucks fly even higher. The 1970's were definitely the decade of Datsun.



Beyond the 70's and Beyond the Datsun Name


The Show Isn't Over Yet.

..

Did you hear the fat lady sing? I didn't.

This book is dedicated primarily to the History of Datsun, and to Nissan during the time during the existence of the Datsun brand name. Nissans race history now continues on almost 20 years after the Datsun name was dropped in 1983. This does not mean that Datsuns stopped winning. On the contrary, Datsuns kept winning, and still win. Jeff Winter took the SCCA G production Title in 2001 in a 510 that was now almost 30 years old.

Jeff Winter and his G Prod winning 510

One truly inspiring Datsun story involves Tom Wyatt III, otherwise known as Turbo Tom. Turbo tom built a rather fast Turbo powered L20b Datsun 510 and entered in the "Walter Mitty" at Road Atlanta one year. The engine developed 275 horsepower at 21 pounds of boost for drag racing, with 250 more like it on the track. It featured at T04 Rotomaster Turbo and 4150 Holley carb set up.

As the story goes, SCCA officials started him out in class with similar style cars, but had to keep moving up in class as he blew the doors off each increasingly powerful group of cars. By the end of the day he was racing with the Corvettes and Cobras. He beat a Porsche 930 on a lap by nine seconds, and a race prepped 427 Cobra by 3 seconds. The race staff didn't know what to do, so they gave him a custom made trophy instead of embarrassing one of the more prestigious classes.

1980 sees Nissans probably one and only involvement with NASCAR, winning the Nascar Dash Series.

1982 saw Don Devendorf and his Electromotive racing team win Datsun's first ever IMSA GTO championship. 1983 saw Datsuns take the following classes at the SCCA Valvoline Runoffs:
GT3 Mike Rickman 200sx
GT4 Dave Carkoff PL510
SSGT Izzy Sanchez 280zx turbo
SS/A Larry Hendricks 280zx
SS/C Jim Roberts 200sx

Morris Clement , Larry Hendricks and Jim Roberts took GT2, SS/A, and SS/C respectively in the 84 runoffs.

Another one of the racing Sharps, Scott Sharp, took GT2 in 1986 in his fathers original rebuilt 240z. Max Jones and Tom Kendall race Nissan 300ZX's to earn Nissan the IMSA Firehawk manufacturer's title. 1986 also saw the arrival of a new racing league on the scene; Nasport(see separate section below).

Bob Studdard won E/P class in 1987 in a 2000 roadster that was now at least 17 years old! Morris Clement finished clinched his second GT 2 title in his 280zx.
On a sad note, long time Nissan racer Fitzgerald dies in a horrible crash at Road Atlanta in a Newman-Sharp GTP car.


Bill "Fitz" Fitzgerald's 280zx

Datsun 1200's and B210's took titles in GT4 and GT5 in 88, 90, 91, and 92... at least 15 years after these cars went out of production.

Nissan gets rolling in IMSA's GTP series, the P standing for Prototype, these cars are similar to Le Mans style cars.
Geoff Brabham leads Nissan to IMSA GTP championship, and with a record nine consecutive wins . Nissan is declared the winner of the 1989 GTP manufacturers title; they would win again in 1990 and 1991, making it 4 consecutive Manufacturers Championships. Nissan is also victorious at the 12 Hours of Sebring for the third straight year.

And then there's Daytona. Nissan takes the checkered flag to win the 1992 24 hours of Daytona, not just class, but an overall victory. Steve Millen wins the IMSA GTO title in his 300zx, and Bob Leitzingers' Leitzinger Racing, with son Butch at the wheel takes the IMSA GTU manufacturer's title for Nissan in a 240sx. Butch goes on to win the Drivers title and the Manufactuers title again in 1993.

Nissan's team repeats at the Daytona 24 Hour, taking the overall victory for the second year in a row, while the IMSA GTS 300ZX team claims manufacturer's crown for Nissan. They also venture back to Le Mans with great success, winning their class and placing 5 th overall.

1995 sees Nissan win their third consecutive 12 Hours of Sebring in the 300zx.


Nasport


Nasport, like the IMSA, was put together to give racers something a little more professional than the SCCA. Nasport had a few different rules, like making cars of similar lap times race together, and with only one or two classes to keep things simple. Performance based as opposed to displacement and body style based. The classes were almost the same as SCCA GT3 and GT4 so that competitors could race in both leagues without having to build different cars. The race season was only 6 to 8 races long, all of pro caliber, all at premier race tracks.

Nasport Standings for Datsuns (with the odd Nissan too)

1987 3rd overall Jon Koobation PL510

1988 2nd Jeff Scoville 200sx, 3rd(tie)J Koobation PL510 and N Balzer 200sx

1989 2nd Jeff Scoville 200sx

1990 1st Collin Jackson PL510 built by Specialty Engineering

1992 1st GT4 Collin Jackson PL510

1993 3rd GT4 John Olsen PL510(Frank Honsowetz took 2nd in GT3 in a 240sx)

1994 2nd GT4 John Olsen PL510

1995 1st GT4 John Olsen PL510

1996 1st GT4 Derek Israel PL510, 2nd John Olsen PL510

1997 2nd GT4 John Teaby PL510, 3rd Marco Sandoval PL510

1998 2nd GT4 John Teaby PL510, 3rd John Spencer PL510

1999 1st GT4 John Teaby PL510, 2nd J Olsen 200sx, 3rd M Sandoval PL510

2000 1st GT4 John Olsen 200sx, 2nd David Jackson 200sx, 3rd Scott Culbertson 200sx

Here are just few of Datsuns racing victories...

Championships



SCCA C Production


John Morton 2000/240z 1970
John Morton 240z 1971
Bob Sharp 240z 1972
Bob Sharp 240z 1973
Walt Maas 260z 1974
Bob Sharp 280z 1975
Elliot Forbes-Robinson 280z 1976
Logan Blackburn 280z 1977
Frank Leary 280z 1978
Paul Newman 280z 1979

D production


Jack Scoville 2000 roadster 1969
Jim Fitzgerald 2000 roadster 1970
Bob McQueen 2000 roadster 1971
Bob McQueen 2000 roadster 1972
Tom Brennan 2000 roadster 1978
Joe Hauser 1600 roadster 1981

E production

-Porsche, Morgan, Triumph roadsters
Bobby Studdard Roadster 1987

F production Roadsters


Bob Sharp 1600 roadster 1967

G production Roadsters, then older model cars


Colonel Joe Hauser 1600 roadster 1974
Colonel Joe Hauser 1600 roadster 1976
Colonel Joe Hauser 1600 roadster 1982
Jeff Winter Pl510 2001

B sedan


Bob Sharp 510 1971
Bob Sharp 510 1972
Dave Frellsen 510 1973
Dave Frellsen 710 1974
Dave Frellsen 710 1975
E. Forbes-Robinson 610 1976
Dave Frellsen 510 1978
Bill Coykendall 200-sx 1979
Dave Frellsen 510 1980

C sedan


Don Devendorf 1200 1973
Don Devendorf B210 1974
Don Devendorf B210 1975
Damon Pleasant B210 1976
Dick Davenport B210 1977
Dick Davenport B210 1978
Dick Davenport B210 1979

Showroom stock A


DJ Fazekas Datsun Z car 1977
DJ Fazekas Z car 1978
Luis Sanchez Z car 1982
Larry Hendricks 280z 1983
Larry Hendricks 280z 1984
Pepe Pombo 300zx 1985
Pepe Pombo 300zx 1987
Scott Grissom 300zx 1992
Scott Grisson 300zx 1993
David Daughtery 300zx 1994

SS/B


Mark Youngquist Sentra 1992
David Daughtery NX2000 1993
David Daughtery 240sx 1994
David Daughtery 240sx 1995
David Daughtery 240sx 1996

Showroom stock C ss/c



Jim Roberts 200sx 1983
Jim Roberts 200sx 1984

SS/Gt


Izzy Sanchez 280zxt 1983

GT 1

for turbo and high performance

Jim Fitzgerald 300ZXTurbo 1984
Paul Newman 300ZXTurbo 1985
Paul Newman 300ZXTurbo 1986
Scott Sharp 300ZXTurbo 1987
Scott Sharp 300ZXTurbo 1988


GT 2(formerly c production)


Morris Clement 280zx 1984
Scott Sharp 280z 1986
Morris Clement 280zx 1987



GT 3-similar to D production


Dave Frellsen hl510 1980
Robert Dyson 200sx 1981
Mike Rickman 200sx 1983

GT 4 Championship



Dave Carkhuff pl510 1983
Richard Grant B210 1990
Hubert De Prez B210 1991
Juan Montalvo B210 1992
Hubert De Prez Sentra 1993

GT5


David Schaller 1200 1988
Jeffrey Clinton 1200 1990
Jeffrey Werth 210/B310 1991
Jeffrey Werth 210/B310 1992
Jeffrey Werth 210/B310 1994

GTS


David Walsh Sentra 1995

SCCA Trans Am 2.5 Challenge



John Morton BRE 510 1971
John Morton BRE 510 1972

IMSA




Drivers Championships

        
1974 Walt Maas
1975 Bob Sharp  
1976 Brad Frisselle
1979 Don Devendorf
1989 Bob Leitzinger
1992 David Loring
1993 Butch Leitzinger
1994 Jim Pace

IMSA GTU Manufacturers Championship 1975, 1976, 1979,1991,1992,1993,1994



IMSA RS Manufacturers Championship 1977



IMSA RS Drivers Championship 1977, 1980



There are many excellent sources of racing info on the web. For the best general racing stats check out WSPR-Racing.com
For SCCA results go to SCCA.com

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