In a Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship first, Nissan New Zealand will provide factory backing to championship winner Darren Kelly.
After nearly a year of teasing over social media, Kelly revealed his freshly built GT-R in Nissan colours to fans, supporters, and sponsors.
Kelly says finally having the car come together and complete is the realization of what was initially just an idea between D1NZ organisers and friends-but later turned into a year's long hard work.
"It's a dream come true," says Kelly. "It's been a real hard road, obviously the whole way through building such a crazy car. We've had big ups, and big downs. It's been pretty rough, but to see it come together in the last few weeks has been amazing.
"Realising what it is has made it all worth it. It's been a crazy ride, but seeing it finished is obviously a huge achievement. I'm stoked, and I can't wait to drive it!"
Kelly's first opportunity to compete in front of fans comes later this year at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium over December 2-3. Drifting will take place under a roof for the first time in Southern Hemisphere motor racing history when the series head's to the South Island.
The news is not only a major coup for the D1NZ National Drifting Championship, but for New Zealand motor racing as a whole. Factory support from manufacturers in New Zealand has been scarce of late, but Kelly's signing with Nissan brings hope to competitors around the country.
Kelly says former D1NZ competitor, and international drifting star, 'Mad Mike' Whiddett's backing from Mazda gave him hope he could emulate his countryman's achievements with Nissan.
"When Mike [Whiddett] did it, it was like 'shoot, that might that might actually open a door to that line of sponsorship'.
"We knew we weren't going to get that with a Nissan Skyline R34 or a Silvia S15, so building this car I knew that this would be something that's going to pull sponsors like that. We thought we'd need to do something outside the box and be something they still market today to tie in with all their branding and marketing.
"Basically, I put it forward to them. We talked very briefly and within a matter of days the whole deal was signed and sealed. It obviously means big things for the future."
Nissan New Zealand General Manager John Manley says the opportunity to back Kelly is part of their ambition to support motor racing within the country.
"It's a step out of our normal sort of parameters," says Manley. "This year Nissan New Zealand is actually investing a lot more in motorsport and this is a component of that, and it's a really exciting part.
"It's bringing a different demographic and age group into it, but it's still all about Nissan and it's still all about performance and technology. It fits beautifully for us."
Nissan New Zealand collaborated with the Australian division to bring a NISMO GT-R GT3 to New Zealand for the Hampton Downs and Highlands 101. It's just one of the projects Manley and Nissan New Zealand hope will raise the profile of motor racing and the GT-R.
Drift fans will have numerous opportunities to get up close and personal with Kelly's GT-R this season, as the championship treks from Dunedin to Auckland, and everywhere in between.
Manley says Kelly's GT-R will bring more fans into the sport, and give Nissan customers the closest possible experience to drifting.
"The car is going to get a lot of exposure," he says. "The ultimate goal is to enhance our brand and to get a bit more awareness of the branding.
"We want to get more awareness towards GT-R which we obviously will-but we'll also get some activation with customers and dealer staff through the car. We can get a level of excitement for our customers and that's an experience you can't buy."
The first round of the Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium takes place over December 2-3.