Before BRE and Bob Sharp, There Were Fuji and Sakura

Photography Courtesy Nissan

Nissan’s motorsports history didn’t start with BRE’s famed arrival in 1968-or even Bob Sharp’s SCCA championship a year earlier. In 1958, Nissan entered a pair of cars in the Mobilgas Trial, a 10,000-mile, 19-day odyssey around the perimeter of Australia. It was billed as the world’s cruelest rally.

Yutaka Katayama, now a familiar name to Nissan fans, instigated the project. “We really thought that Nissan had to do better than it was,” he said in an interview released in 2011. “If we took the car we’d built and entered it into the rally, we didn’t think we would win-we would probably lose. But it wouldn’t matter if we won or lost, as long as we completed the race.” Nissan entered a pair of its Datsun 210 sedans, one named Fuji and the other Sakura. Yasuharu Namba and Yoshitane Oya would be the effort’s main drivers, with Oya being a late addition to the roster. “If you are ordered to do it, you have to do it,” he said. “Maybe you think it is strange, but if you are told to go, you have to go.”

Sixty-seven cars entered the event, and both Datsuns were among the 36 finishers. Fuji, the one shown here, won its class, while Sakura came home in fourth.

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