Motorsports will never be a mass-based sport or even be on top of the sponsors’ list. With its high operating cost, poor media coverage, low number of participants and events, local racing is far from those levels seen in the European and American continents. Even our ASEAN neighbors of Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore had all moved to a higher plain. Nevertheless, racing is one of the fields that Filipinos can excel in and we the people have definitely the passion for it!
Luckily, we have a growing economy and a booming motoring industry that some consider the Philippines as being one of the growing markets worldwide. These have made car makers take a second look at Motorsports as a prime marketing tool and is now ripe for the taking.
Two manufacturers that have recently came forth and used Motorsports were Toyota and Nissan. Toyota’s Vios Cup is now going on its 3rd year and will have its inaugural race this coming weekend at the Clark International Speedway. With the field growing like crazy, the organizers have created new classes and race venues to continue fueling the need for speed of its fans and dealers. We will dedicate our column next week on this glamorous event and focus this week on Nissan’s great move to help this exciting sport.
Last year, Nissan launched the GT Academy Philippines which was part of a global program to find race drivers from the virtual world of gaming. The new generation’s love for Sony Playstation’s Gran Tourismo was so overwhelming that Nissan believed that this might be a good source of future race drivers. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to attain a boyhood’s dream of becoming a true race driver.
In 2008, Nissan started the GT Academy in Europe and proved to be very successful which created a big uproar for more events from all over the world. Last year, Nissan GT Academy has grown to 2 other championships which are called International, where the Americas race in, and Asia, where Japan, Indonesia, Thailand and our own Philippines compete in.
Only a few years back, Nissan was being run by a Taiwanese group that had a hard time bringing up the brand and didn’t care much about Motorsports. It was a far cry from being number 2 in Japan and where their following is like a cult. The Japanese group then took over the local distributorship and gave the task of rebuilding to its new President Antonio Zara. With Zara’s strong leadership, Nissan has now become a force to reckon with and is one of the driving forces that lead our Motorsports’ resurgence.
A quick look at Nissan’s current lineup has come up with modern and award winning models like the Nissan Navara, which is the 2015 Truck of the Year awarded by the Car Awards Group and other international groups. There are also the fun and attractive Juke, the luxurious Altima and the great handling Xtrail. These new, exciting models have made the consumers now look at Nissan as one of the better alternatives.
When the truck awardee was launched last year, Nissan held it at the Laoag Sand Dunes and we had a blast driving all out in those dunes. The trucks never broke down and showed everyone how tough it was. After its 1st year anniversary, we drove the Navara for more than 800 kms to Sagada and felt that the truck is worth all of the accolades it has been blessed. The event would not be that great if Nissan’s marketing group headed by SJ Huh and Dax Avenido went all out to make all of us feel much welcomed.
The worst kept secret in our motoring industry is Nissan’s upcoming launch of its supercar, the GTR. Only available in the grey market, Nissan has now took the long, overdue stand to bring in the GTR this year which has all the enthusiasts all waiting for it. There are still a lot more thrilling news waiting in their wings and I choose not to preempt them.
Globally, Nissan’s GTR GT3 NISMO won the GT3 category in the Blancpain Endurance PRO Drivers’ Championship and won Japan’s Super GT500 Championship for 2 years in a row. Nissan also finished its first outing after a long time at the 2015 Le Mans 24 hour race. There are a lot more championships like the Australian V8 Supercar and Japan’s Taikyu Series all making the brand well-known in racing.
All of these racing activities and great models launched in the market had made Nissan what it is today. I love what Zara said when he awarded GTA Filipino winner Jose Gerard Policarpio. He said that Nissan is DEMOCRATIZING MOTORSPORTS by providing a means of getting a Filipino champion in the world stage through the GT Academy.
Policarpio became the winner of the inaugural Nissan GT Academy Asia Championship and shocked the whole establishment, including ourselves. Now this is truly a different and efficient way to attain world championships in Motorsports. Mabuhay Nissan and may you continue the fulfilling our dreams. Godspeed!