Opinion: What will be Darren Cox's legacy?

The departure of Darren Cox, the driving force behind Nissan's LMP1 project, from the Japanese company was announced on Friday - Sam Smith looks back on his tenure and asks what will be his legacy.

Opinion: What will be Darren Cox's legacy?
#23 Nissan Motorsports Nissan GT-R LM NISMO: Olivier Pla, Jann Mardenborough, Max Chilton
Darren Cox head of Nissan Motorsports
#23 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3: Katsumasa Chiyo, Wolfgang Reip, Alex Buncombe
Jann Mardenborough, Carlin
#23 Nissan Motorsports Nissan GT-R LM NISMO: Olivier Pla, Jann Mardenborough, Max Chilton
Darren Cox head of NISMO
#22 Nissan Motorsports Nissan GT-R LM NISMO: Harry Tincknell, Alex Buncombe, Michael Krumm
NISMO Global Head of Brand, Marketing & Sales, Darren Cox
#23 Nissan Motorsports Nissan GT-R LM NISMO: Olivier Pla, Jann Mardenborough, Max Chilton
NISMO President Shoichi Miyatani and NISMO Global Head of Brand, Marketing & Sales, Darren Cox

Darren Cox, the global motorsports and marketing head of Nissan, has left the company after an 18-year stint at the Renault/Nissan alliance.

Over his tenure at Nissan, Cox oversaw the immensely successful GT Academy scheme, and was also instrumental in the company's GT3 programme, as well as the DeltaWing and ZEOD RC electric 'Garage 56' entries at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Cox began working for Nissan in January 2004 and rose through the ranks quickly, becoming Brand Experience Manager for Nissan Europe in 2006.

By 2010 he had become European Chief Marketing Manager and started to exert his influence on aspects of future motorsport projects, but became increasingly exposed after the departure of Andy Palmer from Nissan in 2014.

Palmer, who was effectively Cox’s mentor, left to join Aston Martin, and thereafter, on a corporate level, Cox was out on his own in most respects.

When the Nissan LMP1 de-brief and overview meetings after Le Mans were undertaken in late summer, Cox started to become somewhat marginalised, especially after a restructure was announced in August and the confirmation came of Nissan’s FIA WEC withdrawal.

Cox is now set to form his own consultancy firm in the automotive industry.

How will Cox be remembered?

Darren Cox definitely wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for someone who masterminded such a radical shift in how manufacturers operate and drive through marketing and sporting campaigns, he was never going to be.

Whatever the perception of Cox now, his legacy in the future is sure to stand him in good stead with regards to the multiple programmes he made a reality, particularly the GT Academy, which shifted the boundaries of creative marketing in the sport.

On the flipside, he will also inevitably be remembered for the ambitious, yet thus far difficult GT-R LM LMP1 project, of which he has been one of the driving forces since late 2013.

A condensed timeframe and often disastrous technical problems in the first half of the 2015 season resulted in a poor first attempt at Le Mans, which resulted in only one of the three GT-R LM cars making the chequered flag, albeit unclassified.

On another level, Cox’s genuine passion and enthusiasm set him apart from his peers and rivals in both the boardroom and on the track.

The marketing messages were often partisan but because they were delivered in an often colloquial manner, Cox sometimes irritated more conservative members of the motorsport industry. This just came with the territory.

Some labelled Cox simply as a very good marketing man who had taken on too much with the ambitious LMP1 project and its complex structure and technical objectives. 

Others believe him a visionary and progressive brand leader who was simply ahead of his time.

The truth probably lies somewhere between the two, but what cannot be denied is his legacy of a fine structure and strong foundations for Nissan motorsport, which now exists on a truly global scale.

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