Nissan South Africa has completed one of its most successful years in motor sport with national championships in two different motor sport disciplines, off road racing and circuit racing. In the process, Nissan increased its record-breaking tally of successive motor sport championships to 12 since 1996.
Hannes Grobler and Francois Jordaan won the Absa Off Road Championship in a class SP Proudly South African Nissan Navara and Leeroy Poulter won the Bridgestone Production Car Championship in a class A Sasol Nissan 350Z.
Grobler and Jordaan clinched their second Absa Off Road Championship with one round remaining when they crossed the finish line of the Toyota Dealer 400 in Lydenburg in October in second place, 18 seconds behind the winners, team-mates Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford.
In a stunning display of controlled performance and rugged reliability the three-car class SP Nissan Motorsport team of Vos/Pitchford, Grobler/Jordaan and Mark Corbett/Juan Mohr (Century Property Developments Navara) finished a commanding 1-2-3 after more than 400 km of bruising cross-country racing in Mpumalanga. It was Nissan's 36th win from 47 events and the company?s sixth successive national off road championship.
For the genial Grobler, who has been competing exclusively in Datsuns and Nissans for almost 30 years and is something of a motor racing legend in his own lifetime, it was his fourth national off road championship and his second with good friend Jordaan.
Poulter's circuit racing success came in his first and Nissan's second year in class A of production car racing, Nissan having achieved a commendable second place in last year?s championship debut with Gary Formato. Poulter won six races, finished on the podium 16 times in 20 races and scored 10 pole positions and 10 fastest race laps.
The current run of successive national championship victories started in 1996 with Nissan's second Group N production car championship with Devon Juby in a Maxima and was followed by four successive touring car drivers' and manufacturers' championships with Giniel de Villiers and the locally-developed Nissan Primera from 1997 to 2000.
When rapidly increasing costs forced the premature demise of the touring car formula in South Africa at the end of 2000, Hall and his team quickly transferred their skills and enthusiasm to the national off-road racing championship.
Nissan won the first off road championship it contested, with Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan in a locally-developed Hardbody pickup in 2001. Duncan Vos and Mike Griffith were successful in the Proudly South African Hardbody in 2002, Hannes Grobler and Richard Leeke were victorious in 2003, Grobler and Jordaan were the champions in 2004, Alfie Cox and Ralph Pitchford won in 2005.
The Rosslyn-based company, which has its own state-of-the-art motor sport department in Midrand, where a skilled team of professionals under the direction of former national rally champion Glyn Hall designs, builds and prepares the racing class A Nissan 350Z and class SP Hardbody and Navara pickups, has long recognised the benefits of motor sport as a valuable marketing tool and brand image builder.
"Motor sport is very important to Nissan," says the company's marketing and sales director, Roel de Vries.
"We have been involved with motor sport in South Africa since the 1960s and we are proud of the achievements of the men and women who have competed in vehicles bearing our brand name.
"They have enjoyed considerable success, particularly in the last 11 years during which we have won every national championship in which we have competed.
"We are particularly proud of what we have achieved in the past six years, because our involvement has been both in South Africa and in international competition. Our Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody and Navara racing pickups, designed and built by Nissan Motorsport in Midrand under the direction of our motor sport manager Glyn Hall, not only dominated the domestic championship during this period, but have also flown the South African flag with pride and no little success in the greatest off-road race of them all, the Dakar Rally.
"To date we have built 18 racing Hardbody and Navara pickups of which 12 have been exported to compete in the Dakar and the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup. Quite a few of these vehicles will be competing in the 2007 Dakar.
"We're in motor sport to sell our products. It's an image builder, a brand builder and a valuable marketing tool. Motor sport allows us to demonstrate the qualities of our products in competition with our rivals in the marketplace, in an exciting environment.
"We're in a highly competitive business, with South African consumers blessed with a wide variety of options when choosing a vehicle to meet their needs. We have to stand out from the crowd and grab the consumer?s attention.
"Motor sport provides the right kind of environment to do this. It is exciting and colourful and it's also highly competitive. To achieve consistent success you have to have exceptional product and be on top of your game, technically and professionally.
"We're very happy to be a part of motor sport. We're in it for business reasons, and there's nothing more satisfying than achieving your business goals. Winning isn't everything, but it sure beats coming second."