Nissan has become the sixth manufacturer to confirm a full-season Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli campaign for 2019. The announcement comes six days before the championship’s opening round in Australia: the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour (February 1-3).
KCMG will run two latest-specification GT-R NISMO GT3s at Mount Panorama this weekend before also entering the series’ other four rounds at Laguna Seca (USA), Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium), Suzuka (Japan) and Kyalami (South Africa).
Nissan is joining Audi, Bentley, BMW, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche on the list of full-season Intercontinental GT Challenge manufacturers. That’s one more than the previous record of five that competed in 2018, although more are expected to confirm their participation before Bathurst.
KCMG spent 2018 racing the same GT-R NISMO GT3s in Blancpain GT Series Asia before making appearances at the Macau FIA GT World Cup and end-of-season FIA GT Nations Cup in Bahrain where the team represented its native Hong Kong. It also made a one-off Intercontinental GT Challenge outing at the Suzuka 10 Hours in August.
Five of the six drivers that competed with KCMG and Nissan at Suzuka last season return this weekend.
Oliver Jarvis, a Bathurst podium finisher with Bentley in 2017, heads Down Under direct from the Daytona 24 Hours to partner former Porsche Carrera Cup Asia champion Alexandre Imperatori and 2016 GT Asia title winner Edoardo Liberati aboard KCMG’s #18 entry.
Meanwhile, the #35 crew comprises multiple Super GT and Formula Nippon champion Tsugio Matsuda, LMP3 ace Josh Burdon and 2015 Blancpain Endurance Series champion Katsumasa Chiyo.
The first-generation GT-R NISMO GT3 enjoyed a stellar record at Mount Panorama where Chiyo famously overtook two cars on 2015’s penultimate lap to seal Nissan’s first, and to-date only, Bathurst 12 Hour win. Just 1.2s separated the Japanese driver and ‘Godzilla’ from making it back-to-back victories 12 months later.
2019 represents the new GT-R’s debut outing at Bathurst and Nissan’s first there since 2017. It’s also the first time that a Japanese manufacturer has contested a full Intercontinental GT Challenge campaign.
Dr Paul Ip, KCMG Founder: “We are really looking forward to competing at the iconic Mount Panorama circuit for the first time in the 2019 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour. It will for sure be a tough challenge but we have a great team and drivers and look forward to competing against some of the world’s top teams and drivers at this world-class event. KCMG is proud to continue its successful partnership with Nissan NISMO and look forward to seeing the mighty Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 conquer the Mountain.”
Stephane Ratel, SRO Motorsports Group Founder and CEO: “Nissan’s addition to this year’s roster not only breaks the championship’s record for manufacturer participants in a single season but also ensures another new-generation GT3 model will be racing with us on five continents this year. Nissan already enjoys a successful history in SRO-rules racing on the world stage thanks to its FIA GT1 Drivers’ title – also achieved with the GT-R – in 2011. The GT-R NISMO GT3 demonstrated its potential at Suzuka last season and I have no doubt it will be a force along with KCMG throughout 2019.”
The Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour is followed at the end of March by the Laguna Seca California 8 Hours before manufacturers, teams and drivers cross the Atlantic for Europe’s leg at the Total 24 Hours of Spa in July. The Suzuka 10 Hours hosts Asia’s round one month later ahead of the first Kyalami 9 Hour race since 1982, which brings the curtain down on 2019 in late November.