Calsonic Kansei sale casts future of Impul sponsorship in doubt

Nissan announced today that they have sold their 41 percent share of automotive parts manufacturer Calsonic Kansei Corporation to American investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) & Company, for an estimated value of ¥498.3 billion JPY ($4.5 billion USD).

While there is optimism abound for Calsonic Kansei’s future as a company after spinning off from Nissan, there is one potential blowback that would have a direct and drastic impact the Autobacs Super GT Series: The end of a 34-year partnership between Calsonic and Team Impul that has lasted throughout the entirety of the JGTC/Super GT era, and whose popularity has transcended the series.

The history between Calsonic and Impul founder Kazuyoshi Hoshino goes back to 1982, when Calsonic was known as Nihon Radiator, and Impul’s racing division was simply known as Hoshino Racing.

In addition to sponsoring every one of Calsonic Team Impul’s JGTC and Super GT teams since the inaugural season in 1994, Calsonic has also sponsored Hoshino Racing’s efforts in the All-Japan Sports Prototype Championship (JSPC), the All-Japan Touring Car Championship (JTCC), and Formula Nippon (now Super Formula), as well as NISMO’s factory endurance racing efforts from 1988 to 1999.

The sonic blue Calsonic Nissans that have competed since the very inception of Super GT have become one of the series’ most popular entries, gaining additional recognition through their inclusion in video games and other forms of media.

In Super GT alone, Calsonic won the first three consecutive JGTC championships as a sponsor from 1993 to 1995, driven by Masahiko Kageyama and fielded by NISMO (’93) and Impul (’94-’95).

The deal comes as both Nissan and Calsonic Kansei have come at a crossroads. Nissan, who are heavily invested in next-generation automotive technology, have recently made a majority purchase in Mitsubishi Motors earlier this year.

Calsonic Kansei, a traditional auto parts maker founded in 1938, have begun to diversify their list of automotive clients in response: 80 percent of Calsonic Kansei’s business is done by supplying parts to Nissan, but they have begun to supply parts to General Motors, Daimler, Renault, and Isuzu Motors as well.

If Calsonic were to vacate their sponsorship of Team Impul after 34 years together, it is expected that Japanese energy firm Itochu Enex would take over the title sponsorship. Itochu Enex became the title sponsor of Impul’s Super Formula team in 2016, and served as a secondary sponsor to Impul in Super GT.

For now, nothing has been confirmed either way about Team Impul’s sponsorship for 2017, and nothing will be known until the start of the new year – but for one of the most iconic cars, not just in Super GT but in all of motorsport, it looks like this chapter of history may soon be drawing to a close.

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