Friday, 21 August 2009


MIDRAND, GAUTENG (Wednesday, 19 August 2009) – Nissan Motorsport, a separate business entity and the only Nissan factory outside of Nissan Japan - Nissan South Africa’s Tokyo-based parent company - is thriving under the leadership of ex-rally driver Glyn Hall.

Former champion Hall, who started his career in Britain as a student apprentice for Chrysler UK, previously drove for Ford and Volkswagen before joining Nissan Motorsport as a consultant for its touring car programme. Hall took up a permanent position as general manager shortly thereafter, prior to his taking over the business personally in 2000.

“Apart from competing and faring well in offroad championships, we’ve also been successful in selling offroad vehicles worldwide which has supplemented the income to the business,” says Hall, who builds and maintains Navara offroad racing vehicles at the Midrand Nissan Motorsport factory, where he employs a team of 25 comprising predominantly engineers and technicians. “We develop the technology to build champion-winning cars. You can’t do that with a standard vehicle. You have to develop it, produce the parts and engineer the vehicle to be able to be successful, reliable and cost effective,” he advises.

No stranger to the business environment, having established his own company, Hallspeed, in 1990 to run the VW Dealer team in national championship rallies, Hall was aware of the challenges when he took over Nissan Motorsport. With no financial assistance from Nissan Japan, the division survives with sponsorship deals and income from the sale of vehicles, vehicle parts and technology.

“Our target is to sell five cars a year representing a turnover of between R15 and R17 million,” says Hall. This excludes income raised at Dakar, the world’s largest sporting event. “A lot of the vehicles that we sell participate in the Dakar Rally, a big revenue-earner for us because the race is 18 days long so there’s a lot of parts and equipment used during the event.” The cancellation of the rally last year probably had more effect than the current financial crisis, says Hall, incurring as it did huge losses to its customers. “It’s a bit tighter during the global recession but we should be alright until the worst is over,” he states positively.

Nissan Motorsport’s success is reflected in a clutch of awards, including Hall’s personal Colin Watling Award in 2008 for special achievement in motorsport by someone other than a competitor, and this year’s South African Motorsport Industry Award (SAMIA) for ‘Business of the Year’. The award, accepted by Hall on behalf of his team on whom he confers equal credit, recognises not only the division’s rally successes but also its achievement for exports of tailor-made Navaras for overseas clients.

Hall’s engineering skill and racing experience has led to a string of notable Nissan Motorsport achievements since he joined the division. At the height of the touring car programme in the 1990s, Nissan Motorsport won four consecutive national championships for track racing and eight consecutive national championships for offroad racing after it was established in 2000. Following the discontinuation of Nissan Motorsport’s involvement in track racing, the division has concentrated its focus on offroad racing. ”With the Navara now a global programme, we supply Nissan rally road vehicles all over the world to companies or individuals that want to race them” says Hall. “We also have a driver training programme,” he adds, citing as an example the training of Japanese drivers to assist the growth of Nissan Japan’s Dakar driver programme.

Currently in the Navara assembly, maintenance and refurbishment factory include vehicles belonging to veteran championship drivers, Hannes Grobler, Duncan Vos, and former national motorbike champion Alfie Cox, as well as newcomer Leeroy Poulter who, like Vos and Giniel de Villiers before him, has made a successful transition from production car racing to offroad rallying.