The first ever Japanese machine to win in the WRC

Nissan Fairlady 240Z / Datsun 240Z

Nissan Fairlady 240Z / Datsun 240Zのイメージ
The team entered the Monte Carlo Rally after many tests. The Japanese team resulted in fifth among the European machines, with Aaltonen as their driver.

Nissan Motor announced its sports car, “Datsun Fairlady” in 1962. The machine entered many domestic races and international rally races. When the Porsche 904 placed second in the 1965 Monte Carlo Rally, the car trend for European car makers changed from a touring car base to entering GTs into races for branding purposes. Besides the Porsche team, Alpine Renault and Lancia prepared sports cars to compete in rallies. Nissan also entered the 1968 Monte Carlo Rally with the SR Datsun Fairlady 2000. The development for the cold weather conditions in Monte Carlo including the limited-slip differential (LSD), disk brake, tarmac rally suspension, heat ray reflection wind shield, and spike tires helped the manufacturer with later rally car development.

The Nissan team with the SR Fairlady. Car number 66 was Hannu Mikkola.

When the Fairlady Z (S30) was announced, it was chosen to be the next-generation rally car along with the 510 Blue Bird. The new Fair Lady Z used a strut suspension on a monocoque body. The 240Z, which mounted a 2400cc L24 engine was used for rally racing.

The L24 engine mounted three Solex twin carburetors, a five-speed manual transmission, and the R180 differential. The reason L24 was chosen for the engine was because the 510 Bluebird mounting the L16 engine had experienced wins in the Safari Rally, and its bore/stroke ratio were the same. The L24 was a model with two extra cylinders to the L16, so tuning wise, the manufacturer was able to utilize their experience gained with the L16.

By January of 1970, they held many tests before the Monte Carlo Rally. The driver chosen to drive the new car was Rauno Aaltonen, who was one of the top drivers at the time. The 240Z then went on to enter domestic endurance races, and the team learned their tuning of the L24 engine.

The rally race debut for the car was at the RAC Rally held in autumn of 1970. The driver was Aaltonen, Tony Fall and Edgar Herrmann for the factory team, and John Bloxam from a private team. The RAC Rally was known to be one of the all-star rallies where many teams and drivers from all over the world gathered to compete. Ford, BMC, Porsche, Opel, Lancia, Alpine Renualt and Saab entered their top drivers to compete in 1970. Aaltonen’s 240Z finished seventh overall, and in sixth was Gérard Larrousse with Porsche. In fifth was Andrew Cowan with Alpine Renault.

In the 1971 Monte Carlo Rally, the Nissan team entered Aaltonen and Fall from the factory team, and Ewold van Bergen from a private team. The Monte Carlo rally was the opening event for the International Manufacturers’ Championship. Alpine Renault, Porsche, Lancia, BMW, Fiat, Alpha Romeo, and Opel all entered teams to compete.

The choice for spike tires were important at the Monte Carlo Rally, as it was a snow tarmac rally. With the help of tires developed with Japanese Dunlop, Aaltonen finished fifth overall, and Fall in tenth. They were able to place themselves between the Alpine Renault and Porsche top battle, and Nissan proved to be one of the competitive teams of the season.

The team competed the following year in 1972 with the same drivers. Aaltonen was able to finish third with Jean Todt as a co-driver. This machine is displayed at the Nissan museum today as one of the historical cars.

In 1972, the team finished third among Porsche and Alpine. The lamps in the front grill were installed for Monte Carlo.
Monte Carlo was the start of the WRC. The Alpine machines finished top in the race. Nissan had plans to enter the following year with a 260Z. However, plans were reconsidered with the breakout of the Yom Kippur War.

The 240Z also showed its outstanding performance at the Safari Rally. In the 1971 Safari Rally, Nissan entered Herrmann, Aaltonen, and Shekhar Mehta. The Nissan machines were very popular as it had experience of winning the Safari in the past, and out of 113 cars entered, 41 were Nissan machines.

Their competitors were the Peugeot 504, Porsche 911, Ford Escort and Saab 99. The Safari Rally also known as the “car breaker rally,” called for not only endurance of the machine but also high horsepower as it had many fast speed stages. In order to meet these standards, the 240Z L24 engine was tuned to 200 horsepower. This engine was powered up year by year, and by the 1973 RAC rally, it reached 250 horsepower.

At the start of the race, Bjorn Waldegard with Porsche lead the race, but the 240Z was just behind them. Waldegard, losing to the pressure from behind, coursed out and retired from the race. Herrmann’s 240Z came out on top and finished the race with the same position. Mehta finished second, and Aaltonen finished seventh. The 240Z brought Nissan the overall win and team win in its first Safari Rally entry.

Nissan won both the overall win and the team win. The auxiliary lamp on top of the bonnet is a characteristic of the 240Z.

The next year, 1972, was won by Ford with an Escort. Ford prepared three Cessnas watching the route during the race, over a hundred staff with numerous service cars in order to win the race. Their drivers were Timo Makinen, Hannu Mikkola, Joginder Singh and Vic Preston jr.

Although the overall win and team win went to Ford, Nissan placed Herrmann and Aaltonen in fifth and sixth place. The 240Z had tire troubles and machine troubles due to the high speed compared to other years, and as a result missed the win.

Although Ford won this year, numerous Nissan machines were able to cross the finish line. The Safari Rally consisted of highspeed courses if the gravel conditions are dry.

In 1973, Nissan prepared three 240Z and two Bluebird U1800 (610). Their competitors were the Ford Escort and Peugeot 504. Also, Singh entered with a Mitsubishi Colt Gallant as a private team.

People saw the Ford Escort as one of the winning candidates, but they came across machine troubles and retired. As for Nissan, Mehta’s 240Z took the win, and Harry Kallstrom, who entered with the Bluebird U placed second which was an incredible result for the team. In fourth was also Fall driving the Bluebird U. Nissan was able to win overall. The manufacturer also won class championships in three other classes.

This was the first Safari win after the round becoming a part of the WRC. The 240Z was the first ever Japanese machine to win in the WRC.

The 240Z continued to compete until 1974, and the racing was then passed on to the Bluebird (610) and the Violet (710).

Recently, historic rally events are taking place worldwide such as the Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique, and the Fairlady is one of the popular machines seen in events.

Results of Nissan Fairlady 240Z / Datsun 240Z

H.KällströmYear1974YearEventDriverCo-driverCar
1970RAC RallyR.AaltonenP.Easter10th
1971Rallye de Monte-CarloR.AaltonenP.Easter5th
1971Rallye de Monte-CarloT.FallM.Wood10th
1971Safari RallyE.HerrmannH.SchüllerWin
1971Safari RallyS.MehtaM.Doughty2nd
1971Safari RallyR.AaltonenP.Easter7th
1971RAC RallyS.MehtaL.Drews19th
1972Rallye de Monte-CarloR.AaltonenJ.Todt3rd
1972Safari RallyE.HerrmannH.Schüller5th
1972Safari RallyR.AaltonenT.Fall6th
1972Safari RallyS.MehtaM.Doughty10th
1972Acropolis RallyS.MehtaP.Easter2nd
1972Press-on-Regardless RallyT.JonesR.Beckman2nd
1972RAC RallyR.AaltonenP.Easter11th
1972RAC RallyT.FallM.Wood18th
1973Rallye de Monte-Carlo(WRC)T.FallM.Wood9th
1973Rallye de Monte-Carlo(WRC)R.AaltonenP.Easter18th
1973Safari Rally(WRC)S.MehtaL.DrewsWin
1973RAC Rally(WRC)H.KällströmC.Billstam14th
1974Rallye de Monte-Carlo(WRC)H.KällströmC.Billstam4th
1974Safari Rally(WRC)H.KällströmC.Billstam5th

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