- the Nissan Sentra years
DF: "1982 saw me building a Nissan Sentra for the professional "IMSA" International Motor Sports Association front wheel drive "Proformance" series of races. The Sentra was new to the USA and had new engine and transmission families. Front wheel drive racing was new to me and took some getting used to, unlearning old habits was more like it. We wrote our own book on the new engine, transaxle, and chassis. The car was late getting under construction and only ran a couple of races in 1982 with no wins. 1983 started off with more promise but a severe crash at the Laguna Seca race track in Monterey, California, triggered by a bump from behind, totaled the car. A new race car was hurriedly built but several races were missed. The Sentra won a supporting race and had some 2nds and 3rds, and led for a time at Elkhart Lake Wisconsin, but the time out to build a new race car took it's toll and we finished 7th in that year's championship. The Sentra was Nissan's lowest price and highest volume seller in 1983 but there was enormous pressure building in the US Congress to limit imported car volume and save American jobs. Limits on imported cars passed and all the Japanese manufacturers decided to concentrate on selling more profitable vehicles, especially trucks, which were unlimited in volume. Nissan dropped its support for the Sentra effort and increased its support for off-road truck racing.
"Nissan requested that I switch to red, white, and blue to represent the Nissan colors and present a unified appearance in 1983. My Champion Sparkplug Challenge Sentra, Logan Blackburn's GTU (GT under 2.5 Liters) ZX, and the twin turbo GTO 280 ZX (GT over 2.5 Liters) driven be Don Devendorf and Tony Adamowicz all sported the same paint scheme which Nissan designed (see team photo below). All of us were competing in the IMSA series and were sponsored in 1983 by Activision which made Nintendo style computer games. Just before the race mentioned above at Laguna Seca the Sentra was dropped off at a paint shop that specialized in doing movie car painting in a hurry and in 24 hours the car was repainted. The car looked good in red white and blue but I was sad to lose a color scheme associated with me for the previous 12 years. The Sentra was destroyed in a spectacular crash during the race at Laguna Seca within 72 hours of being painted!"
After the above crash, Dave missed four races until a new car had been built. He then went on to complete the 1983 season.
DF: I also drove a couple of races in IMSA in 1981, co-driving with Logan Blackburn in his 280 ZX. We did the 6-hour race at Mosport in Canada and finished 6th. after running 2nd for over half of the race but we ultimately broke a rear suspension arm and were not running at the finish. Logan and I then ran the 500 mile race at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin and finished 2nd. The GTU class was for cars under 2.5 liters. To get the displacement down to 2500 cc if I remember correctly Logan used a 2 liter crank (the 6 cylinder 240 Z engine was also sold in Japan in 2 liter form) and a 280 ZX engine block.
Nissan promotional poster
DF: The transmission was the biggest problem on the Sentra - last permanent fix parts were made before the end of the Sentra program but never installed in the gearbox. The newly made parts were sold with the car to Tom Speed from Charlotte, North Carolina and after they were installed the transmission was bulletproof. Tom used all the mechanical parts and built a new car (maybe a Pulsar NX I do not remember for sure) to SCCA specs. I think the chassis was used by a friend of Tom's and also raced in SCCA events. SCCA rules were much more liberal as to what could be modified, particularly in the chassis area. I think Tom finished on the podium at the CSPRRC around 1992.
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