The Nismo Festival at Fuji Speedway is one of Japan's great petrol head events. Held every year since 1997, it's a full-on, one day extravaganza to thank Nissan/Nismo fans for their support during the season. The event brings out a whole treasure trove of cool cars, both past and present, as well as many of the great ex-works Nissan drivers.
There's a passion here you can almost touch, with stands full of ardent fans waving huge Nissan flags as the cars roar past on each lap. Crowds mill around the many classics on display, such as the great line-up of Skyline GT-Rs up on the pit roof while the paddock areas either side of the track are also teeming with cars, people and action.
Drawing an enthusiastic 30,000-plus crowd, there were three main themes to the 2011 Nismo fest. First, to celebrate Nissan's past with demos of historic cars from Nissan’s outstanding Heritage Collection. A chance, then, to see the fabulous factory R381 Can Am car that ran in the 1968 Japanese Grand Prix in action again, but Nissan also has a strong history at Le Mans, on the rally stage and in tin top racing around the globe, let’s not forget, and this duly brought out a whole armada of historics.
Nissan is also huge in Super GT, Japan’s top racing series, having won the championship many times with the GT-R. Looking to the future, Nissan is keen to promote the swoopy electric-powered Leaf Nismo RC. This too was run at Fuji, just a few days after it was announced that Nismo is now going to be promoted worldwide as Nissan’s performance brand, as its own AMG, you could say.
There were yet more attractions, like the ‘circuit safari’ for instance. Here, you ride around the track in a bus and Nissan racing cars scream past, one after another. Yes, to be inches away from a howling Group C racer or Super GT GT-R in full flight was pretty alternative.
A fascinating GT-R vs Z car race ‘battle’ (with no punches pulled) impressed the crowd, and various talk shows with famous works drivers like Kazuyoshi Hoshino and Masahiro Hasemi and a mass of trade stands kept everyone occupied for hours. One in particular, selling secondhand racing parts to ‘maniacs’ saw long queues. Another, offering commemorative Nismo models, was also packed. You get the idea…
What also puts the Nismo Festival on the map is its free and easy atmosphere. You can go virtually anywhere and you keep discovering something new. At heart, this is a fun, family- friendly event with a definite end-of-term feel to it. There are other manufacturer festivals around, but Nismo is the big one, a massive celebration of Japanese motorsport spirit that you can’t help but enjoy.