There’s the potential to see many racing Zs in the not-so-distant future

Nissan is busy reviving one of its oldest legends, the Z car, and in doing so the Japanese automaker will bring a new sports car to the market at a time when the days of the light, small, affordable sports car seem to numbered.

That’s why the success of the upcoming 400Z, coming in to replace the 370Z that’s been around for over a decade, may actually depend on the car’s success on the track as per the old ’Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday’ adage. Here’s how a potential track-only Z may end up looking like.

How about a Nissan Z in GT3 or Japan’s Super GT?

These Renders Prove That The Nissan Proto Z Would Look Amazing As A Race Car
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Nissan has been channeling its sporty spirit through two models: the cheap and cheerful 370Z and the UFO-like R35-generation GT-R at the opposite end of the scale.

Both are two-door, front-engined sports cars although, one could argue, the GT-R has bridged the chasm between sports cars and supercars by being both practical and ultra-fast, be it on the road or the track.

So, these two cars don’t share much beyond the engine placement, the number of doors, and the badge on the hood but there’s one more thing that they share: they’re both pretty much past their sell-by date.

Nissan is well aware of that and is hard at work replacing both models. While the new GT-R has yet to be announced, Nissan still trying to suck the last ounces of life out of the R35 by throwing the GT-R50’s engine in it, we did get to see the Proto Z, a preview at the replacement of the 370Z.

These Renders Prove That The Nissan Proto Z Would Look Amazing As A Race Car
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Underpinned by a platform that shares some DNA with that of the outgoing 370Z, the next Z will most likely spawn both a convertible and a NISMO-tuned version, as well as, more unusually, an SUV. All will share the same retro styling reminiscent of the 240Z from the ’70s but what we’re wondering is whether or not Nissan is also cooking a racing version of the Z.

Nowadays, Nissan is active in a number of racing series with a number of race cars, most of which are based on the GT-R. In GT3 competition, for instance, Nissan has been running the GT-R since 2011 with varied results (the car did win the 12 Hours of Bathurst on one occasion but, beyond that, it hasn’t been particularly successful outside of Japan) while in Super GT’s highest echelon, GT500, the GT500 is once again the weapon of choice. Going through a number of changes due to various rule changes, the GT-R GT500 car has been around for over a decade, much like the road car.

These Renders Prove That The Nissan Proto Z Would Look Amazing As A Race Car
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By comparison, Toyota unveiled the Supra-based GT500 racer at the end of last year with its debut coming at the first Super GT round of 2020 and Honda has been racing the NSX since 2017, although 2020 brought about a change in the engine’s location as Class 1 rules mandate that all cars must be front-engined. Having said that, Honda raced the ’NSX Proto’ in GT500 since 2014 and that car was broadly similar to the 2017-2019 mid-engined NSX GT500. Still, that’s just seven seasons under the belt of the NSX compared to an incredible 13 seasons of racing amassed by the GT-R during its lifetime that seems bound to continue although the car, as mentioned, has already been updated five times.

But, as with all things in life, the GT-R’s reign will end and it isn’t outlandish to think that Nissan may replace it with a Z-based racer for a while before having it displaced by the arrival of the next GT-R sometime in the future. That is, after all, what Nissan did in the mid-’00s when the R34 GT-R was retired and its shoes were filled by the Nissan 350Z-based GT500 contender. Featuring longer front overhangs - that pushed Nissan to sell a few examples of the 350Z Type-E homologation special - and a tube-frame chassis, the GT500-spec 350Z was powered by the VQ30DETT V-6.

These Renders Prove That The Nissan Proto Z Would Look Amazing As A Race Car
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The car won the GT500 Drivers’ title in its first season with drivers Satoshi Motoyama and Richard Lyons driving the Xanavi car to victory, as Motorsport.com remembers while making the point that a GT500 400Z would bode well with Nissan’s aspirations to squash Toyota’s Supra as it could do it both on the road and the track. This could happen as soon as 2023 since the production version of the Proto Z won’t come before 2022 and, looking at Toyota’s timeframe, it takes about a year to turn a road car into a race car.

It would make sense too as Nissan seems likely to call time on the GT-R R35 come the 2022 model year which should be one dedicated to special edition versions. Thereafter, with the next-gen GT-R coming at a later date that’s unknown at the time of writing, it means Nissan would have to race the Z if it plans to continue in the GT500 class as racing a car no longer in production is unusual but not unheard of (both Honda and Toyota kept racing the old NSX and, respectively, the Mk. IV Supra many years after they were out of production in the ’00s).

These Renders Prove That The Nissan Proto Z Would Look Amazing As A Race Car
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At the end of the day, if a GT500 version, previewed by Flat Hat 3D Studio but also by Autosport WEB in Japan, then, at least, a GT3 or GT4 version may happen. The last GT4-spec Nissan was based on the 370Z and we think Nissan will want to keep being involved in either or both of the two classes that have an undeniable global appeal.

Source: Flat Hat 3D

Michael Fira
Associate Editor and Motorsport Expert - fira@topspeed.com
Mihai Fira started out writing about long-distance racing like the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. As the years went by, his area of interest grew wider and wider and he ever branched beyond the usual confines of an automotive writer. However, his heart is still close to anything car-related and he's most at home retelling the story of some long-since-forgotten moment from the history of auto racing. He'll also take time to explain why the cars of the '60s and '70s are more fascinating than anything on the road today.  Read More
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