Big news in the Nissan motorsports world: Nissan/Datsun has been selected as the featured marque for the Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR) Speedfest vintage races at the upcoming Classic Motorsports Mitty vintage festival, where legendary Datsun/Nissan race driver John Morton will serve as the grand marshal.
Now in its 41st year, the Mitty festival – the longest-running vintage and historic race in the U.S. – returns to the celebrated Road Atlanta road course the weekend of April 26-29.
The bespectacled Morton is best known best for driving a BRE Datsun 510 to a pair of Sports Car Club of America titles in the Under 2.5-liter Trans-Am series, and also winning a pair of two SCCA C-Production championships in a BRE Datsun 240Z. These early racing successes in 1970, 1971 and 1972 put Nissan on the U.S. racing map, proving to the world that the 510 and 240Z were capable of defeating highly regarded European makes like Alfa Romeo and BMW. And of course, Morton's Datsuns wore the Brock Racing Enterprises red, white and blue livery, a classic paint scheme that has spawned countless numbers of tribute BRE 510s around the country.
The popular and talented Morton's success with Nissan went far beyond BRE. Some 15 years later, he joined Nissan's IMSA-dominating GTP ZX-Turbo program, sharing a car with Geoff Brabham in 1988 that defeated the mighty Porsche 962s and won at challenging circuits such as Road America and Watkins Glen. Later, in 1994, Morton bolstered his competitive legacy by teaming with Steve Millen and Johnny O'Connell to win the 12 Hours of Sebring in a GTS-class Nissan 300ZX, which was followed by a class victory (and a fifth-overall finish) at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
"I'm excited to be going to Atlanta," remarked Morton, who said Road Atlanta is particularly special to him because it's the track where the Nissan IMSA GTP team started an eight-race win streak back in 1988.
"It's a real honor to be named grand marshal," said Morton. "Road Atlanta is right up there with the best road racing tracks in the country, so I'm pleased to be honored in this way. Nissan has a tremendous racing heritage that goes back even before BRE, but it really blossomed under BRE in 1970 and continued through the GTP era. Nissan has a tremendous amount of racing credibility. An awful lot of people still support Nissan and Datsun in racing today, and most of that enthusiasm goes back 50 years."
A member of multiple motorsport halls of fame, Morton is a regular on the vintage race circuit and has competed often with HSR, the sanctioning body for the Mitty. As grand marshal, Morton will sign autographs in the Classic Motorsports tent, but he also will race an exact replica of his No. 46 BRE 240Z. Morton said the Z, beautifully built by Georgian Randy Jaffe, is a faithful recreation of the original Z he drove to two SCCA titles, but unfortunately no longer exists.
Celebrating its status as the featured marque, Nissan North America is bringing several historic cars to the event, highlighted by the original No. 46 Datsun 510 that Morton drove to the 1971 and 1972 SCCA Under 2.5-liter Trans-Am titles. Other classic Nissans on display will include the No. 83 GTP ZX-Turbo, nicknamed "Elvis" for its on-track dominance in 1988, and a 1990 PPG Indy series pace car, plus a 1971 240Z and a 1995 300ZX twin turbo, an SMZ special edition from Steve Millen's shops.
To whet your appetite for the Mitty (and see why so many fans are crazy about BRE Datsuns) check out this vintage promotional video; it's a fun look back at Morton's 1971 championship season in which he battled Horst Kwech in the Alfa Romeo all the way until the last race of the season at Laguna Seca. Sure, the film's a bit grainy, but that only adds to its charm as it beautifully captures the spirit and feel of this significant chapter in Nissan motorsports history.
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