Creating Godzilla
The Mission

“We’ve got a new assignment for you. You’re moving to Australia. The R32 GT-R must win Bathurst!” Our story starts with a phone call and a one-way flight from London to Melbourne, Australia.

I recently had the opportunity to share a coffee and find out firsthand how a modern motorsport legend was born. Alan Heaphy will likely be an unfamiliar name to the majority of you, but I’d wager a large sum of cash that you’d be familiar with the results of his hard work.

This is Alan’s story. This is how Godzilla was created.

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After spending several years abroad setting up Nissan Motorsport Europe, Alan was shipped back to Australia on secondment to lead a very exciting and challenging new project: Nissan’s iconic GT-R badge was coming out of retirement.

In the new age of globalised markets it was deemed important that car enthusiasts across entire planet understood the full significance of that red ‘R’, and to demonstrate the true power of GT-R, a decision was made to be the first Japanese manufacturer to win Australia’s most challenging race, the Bathurst 1000.

Mount Panorama, Bathurst, is widely regarded as the one of the world’s most difficult circuits to master. Not only is the road course fast and unforgiving, but cars and drivers are also forced to contend with Australia’s extreme weather conditions. Over the course of the 1,000 kilometre race the weather often swings wildly; teams need to be prepared for everything from extreme heat to hailstorms and heavy showers. All in one day.

On its kindest days, the Bathurst 1000 is an absolutely brutal event, on its worst it’s a driver’s worst nightmare.

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Aussie ex-driver and previous Bathurst champion Fred Gibson had been running Nissan Motorsport’s Australian program for some years before the debut of the R32 GT-R. The team had a solid record and were highly regarded by competitors and spectators alike. Previously, the team had campaigned Bluebirds and HR31 GTS-Rs in Australia’s major racing series, Group A, but as successful as they were, they’d never secured a Bathurst victory.

In fact, almost no one had; only two teams outside of major Aussie manufacturers GM Holden or Ford had won on the mountain. A Mini Cooper S won the title way back in 1966 and more recently the 1985 race was won by a Jaguar XJ-S. This was going to be a massive undertaking.

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To kick off development the team ran one freshly-delivered R32 GT-R in 1990’s Bathurst event, but the car was overcome by the extreme conditions of Mount Panorama. The Skyline finished 18th after struggling the majority of the event with serious driveline problems. But just finishing the race with a brand new platform was still an impressive feat.

Shortly after the 1990 race in late November, Alan joined Fred Gibson Motorsport as Lead Team Operations Manager. The team would only have three months to develop the car from its current form into something capable of withstanding conditions and being competitive against Australia’s fastest sports sedans. Time was of the essence and pressure was mounting from Nissan HQ.

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The almost impossible task couldn’t have happened without the strong commitment of Fred’s team, who worked seven days (and nights) a week, testing, turning spanners and fabricating. And all this was during the Christmas and New Year holiday season when things traditionally slow down.

The Race Before The Race

With pressure increasing from Nissan HQ so did the resources. The team had unparalleled support from the factory, and they needed it too if they had any hopes of conquering the mountain. Alan called on some contacts that had helped with the Le Mans development while in the United Kingdom, including PI Data Acquisition, essentially a small company established by a group of Cambridge professors that dealt with real-time data acquisition and sensors. Vehicle testing was fast-tracked by using new brand new data-logging equipment, methods that had been proven while working with Lola and the HR31 GTS-R program. For the first time, the team had the ability to check various configurations on the fly.

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A lot of the development time went into manufacturing brand new parts; making do with something ‘good enough’ wasn’t an option. Because the platform was all-new, almost every component had to be made from scratch, either in-house or by a local contact. The skills of the fabrication team were world class, and many of the revisions and changes made by the boys at Fred Gibson Motorsport were subsequently adopted by Nissan Japan and applied to later GT-Rs.

The first system the team upgraded was the braking. By aiming infrared sensors at the brakes from the suspension uprights, engineers could see in real time how hot different materials got, and also how quickly the heat would be dissipated by various setups. This new approach cut testing time from months to weeks.

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A set of custom cast magnesium alloy rims were designed and manufactured by local wheel expert Kevin Dragev (who would eventually create ROH Wheels). The rims used a hollow spoke design to help dissipate tire heat which would increase their lifespan – a completely new and unique idea back in 1990 and one that worked well.

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One of the simpler but still impressive ideas that resulted from the real-time development and logical attack on each issue was a reversible duct located behind the front bumper. When racing on high-speed circuits where engine oil temps would soar, the duct was bolted in one position, while for more corner-intensive tracks that required heavier braking, the duct was simply rotated before the race, thus diverting more air from the engine to the brake ducts. Logical, simple and effective.

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The same logical approach was applied in the engine bay, and increasing efficiency and longevity of each component in the already powerful RB26DETT was the key to success. One of the strengths of the team at the time was the level of communication; the guys were always thinking. Even during morning tea breaks the entire team would sit together and share their latest discoveries and ideas. Everyone from the floor mechanic right up to Alan had an equal say and were encouraged to bring their ideas to the table.

With the major cooling and suspension sorted it was on to improving the engine and driveline.

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The initial RB26 blocks supplied by Nissan struggled with the extra power, and managing the batch of engines was like walking on a tightrope. Under extreme loads the inline-sixes were known to crack and leak from a particular water gallery.

The level of commitment from Nissan was amazing though, and after sorting the issues early in the ’91 season, five new modified blocks were made almost overnight in Japan specifically for the team. Again, this improvement was quickly implemented in manufacturing, improving the production-spec RB26s at the same time.

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It was important to maximize the efficiency of the twin Garrett T25 turbochargers, and the team would have been one of the first to measure, weigh and balance their units. “You guys are three years ahead of us,” Alan recalls a Garrett engineer in Japan exclaiming when reviewing the revisions made by the small team in Australia.

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A stock transfer case was mated to a custom 6-speed set of gears manufactured by Australian race transmission manufacturer Holinger Engineering. The development of this very gearbox was the precursor for the now famously reliable and tough as nails, Holinger 6-speed dog box. Upgraded driveshafts were fabricated in house and a spool diff fitted.

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By making these and other upgrades, Alan and his team successfully transformed the car into an unrivalled track monster that holds a special place in the hearts of petrol heads across the globe. They had created Godzilla.

I Hope This Works
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Sandown Raceway, February 1991. The GT-Rs were almost completely different cars to what had originally been shipped over from Japan, and after reviewing the extensive changes made to the cars the CEO of Nissan leaned in towards Alan and simply said: “I hope all this works.” The weight behind each word gave Alan the distinct feeling that he’d either be packing trophies or his office by the end of the weekend.

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Apart from a couple of minor issues, the cars performed flawlessly. At Sandown, both GT-Rs were running the original blocks and developed a minor leak from the water gallery during practice, but desperate for results the team pressed on. Alan left the track to drive into town, found a local car parts store and bought half a dozen cans of radiator stop leak. Amazingly, the garage fix worked and even managed to hold things together for five races!

The R32 GT-R driven by Mark Gibbs and Rohan Onslow went on to win the 500km race, completing six more laps than any other car no less. The result was a massive wave of relief for Alan and his entire team, and the CEO felt assured that these ‘new things’ did in fact work. Nissan’s brand new monster had just claimed its first of many victories.

As the season progressed and the team continually refined the cars, so did their lead over the championship and their rivals on track. We’re not talking about small margins here either, we’re talking laps.

The cars were fast and both the competition and the organisers of the race series didn’t like it one bit. Alan recalls telling driver Jim Richards to drive a bit slower during one race; he was way too far in front and the team was already under scrutiny. Richards replied: “If I drive any slower I’ll crash!”

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Godzilla Versus The Mountain

The season ramped up through the year, as did both the vehicle development and the commitment from Nissan. The highlight of the season was drawing near, the Bathurst 1000.

The drivers had tested their limits in the GT-Rs and had a strong understanding of how far to push their machines. The team had extracted every last drop of performance and more importantly increased the lifespan of each component as best as they could. They were as prepared as one can ever be truly prepared for the rough and random nature of endurance motorsport.

For Bathurst, Nissan shipped a back-up package for each entrant. These comprised of a complete bare chassis, front and rear subframes, suspension, uprights, gearbox, engine and brakes – basically a spare car in knocked down form. Each package was fully assembled and tested at Calder Park Raceway just prior to the event, before all the major components were swapped into the existing cars for the best possible chance of victory.

Jim Richards and Mark Skaife’s #1 chassis suffered some diff problems during practice and qualifying. Chassis #2 was dusted off and while being driven by a very young Mark Skaife went on to break the lap record and take pole position in qualifying, which can viewed in the video above.

The diff issues proved to not be serious, meaning that the #1 car would repaired in time for the main event.

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Race day was the 6th of October 1991. The 32nd year of endurance racing at Bathurst would you believe it, a fitting year for the R32 to take on the mountain.

I’m not superstitious, but the universe (and Alan’s team) were perfectly positioned to conquer the feared mountain. To use a cliche, it was a fairytale drive. Mark Skaife became the first since Australian legend Peter Brock to claim provisional pole position, actual pole position, and then go on to claim outright victory. In the process he and co-driver Jim Richards also smashed both the existing lap record (2:12.63) and fastest overall race time (6h19m14.80s) for Mount Panorama. Nissan’s second GT-R, driven by Mark Gibbs and Rohan Onslow, finished in third position behind the factory Holden VN Commodore. Most importantly, Nissan had secured the Manufacturer Championship. Mission accomplished.

You’d think the pit garage would be party central, but relief is the only feeling Alan remembers when his team was first to cross the line. Exhaustion blocked any other feeling for a day or two. Stress levels were high and sleep reserves were low; the entire team had been running on empty. It wasn’t until a few days after that the magnitude of what his team had achieved began to sink in. They’d exceeded all expectations including their own. Australia had its first taste of a new level of competition.

To put the ’91 performance in perspective, no car would complete the Bathurst 1000 faster than the R32 GT-R until 2010 (6h12m51.41s). Holding a record like this in the top tiers of motorsport for 19 years is unheard of.

To Kill A Monster
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The extreme domination of the race series by Nissan is still talked about today. The phrase ‘Godzilla’ was coined by Australian media and a legend was instantly born; a flame-spewing, invincible monster that assaulted our race tracks. Unfortunately, people are generally scared of monsters and rapid change, not unlike when the ‘real’ Godzilla laid waste to a black and white metropolis on film. So strong was the fear that it kickstarted a massive backlash against the brand and even the drivers.

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Sure, everyone had just witnessed something amazing with these Japanese pocket rockets, but was Australia ready to usher in this new era of technological wizardry and stronger competition? The embarrassing short answer is ‘no’. The longer answer involves team penalties, a whole slew of new rules to ‘promote fairness’ and even court battles. Australian racing got ugly.

CAMS, the race series’ organiser introduced weight penalties and restricted boost. When the GT-Rs overcame the restrictions a new set of penalties were imposed. Ultimately, the series was abandoned and a new series with new rules took its place. V8 Supercars were born; basically a fight between Australian manufacturers Ford and GM Holden.

It wasn’t until 2013 that other manufacturers would rejoin the battle, although this time everyone would be using a control-style chassis and an engine with very specific power and torque bands.

1992 saw Nissan return to the mountain to claim a back-to-back victory in one the most treacherous years ever. New Zealand legend Denny Hulme (1967 Formula One champion) hit a wall and suffered a heart attack, passing away at Bathurst Hospital shortly before the race was finished early under a red flag. Jim Richards also crashed out on the final lap just as the red flag was called, but he and Skaife were declared the winners by officials who back-dated the victory to a few laps before the race was cancelled. The reaction from the passionate Ford and Holden crowd was disgraceful, resulting in Richards’ infamous, but fair, ‘pack of ar**holes’ speech.

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New regulations saw the end of an era of racing; a glorious era dominated (and possibly destroyed) by Nissan’s amazing GT-Rs. Australia’s top tier of racing had essentially closed the doors to outsiders, and for the next 15 years it was purely a battle between local juggernauts.

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With the sad death of the Australian automotive manufacturing industry, it’s going to be interesting to see what direction our top tier of motor racing takes over the next few years. The sport is once again at a crossroads and it could potentially be time usher in a new era of Australian racing. Regardless of what the future brings to the sport, the impact and controversy surrounding Nissan’s Godzilla R32 GT-R project has cemented itself in the pages of international racing folklore.

As a side note, it’s just been announced that both Jim Richards and Mark Skaife have been announced as the advanced inductees for the 2017 Australian Motor Sport Hall of Fame. The full list of inductees will be be unveiled during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix weekend in Melbourne in March next year.

Matthew Everingham
Instagram: matthew_everingham
matt@mattheweveringham.com

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1

Great article. I remember these cars being in a class of their own, even the underdeveloped 1990 car was leading Bathurst that year when it failed. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vRDo4rchmc
It's amazing that in Australia from 1987 until late 1990 the Sierra RS500 was the only car to have yet in the space of a few months it was rendered more or less obsolete by the R32.

2
Gianluca FairladyZ

Now this, ... this is what i call a very good and informative article! My compliments to the author and journalist. I wish speedhunters would feature more top racing stories like this. This gave us a very good look behind the scenes and it is this what is worth reading. Sad that these stories are so rare, i guess because 95% here is about air suspension and overfenders. Sad, because i lurk around here for many years and some very nice things have changed, sadly..

3

well

4

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5

very nice article. It's sad that racing series like those from the late 80's and early-to-mid 90's aren't around anymore.

6

Fascinating stuff, particularly the adoption of non-factory motorsport engineering to production models. When Nissan re-purposes your designs, you know you did something right.

7

Gibson Motorsport was a factory Nissan team at the time. In fact, they were one of only three factory Group A teams in the Australian Touring Car Championship. Nissan had to use their designs in order to homologate them for racing, as Group A had a lot to do with homologating road cars in order for those specs to be used in race cars. This would've been an 'Evolution; version much like the Brock Group A Commodores, HSV Group A Commodores, RS500 Sierra and the Evolution versions of the Cosworth 190Es and M3s at the time. They had to have 5000 of the base car, but were allowed a further 500 versions of the 'Evolution' model in order for FISA (the governing body of touring cars at the time) to homologate them, allowing them to be raced. That's why 1991-onwards R32 GTRs would've had the Gibson Motorsport spec head instead of the original, Japanese spec one.

8

Great to see this kind of article making a resurgence on SH. Reminds me – in a very good way – of the articles from years ago about Le Mans, Group C, etc. Great stuff.

9

Which Group C? Group C touring cars (an Australian specific formula which ran from 1973-1984 and was superceded by Group A) or Group C sports cars?

10

GT-R BNR32 = reason why GT-R's called "Godzilla". 
Not to mention its record dominance in Japanese touring cars championship / Super GT. Can't blame people saying this car together with its blood line is a legend, coz it really is. For those naysayers, well I think it's about time you guys check the GT-R bloodline history, it's the most successful sportscar Japan has ever produced in motorsports. ;)

11

Cant help but get mixed feelings from reading this article. Amazing what Nissan, the GTR and the team did but horrible what happened due to their success.
I hate racing where everyone must run practically the same car.

12

Well that's what happens when a single car dominates even after having restrictions placed on them. Fred Gibson once said in an interview that when he wanted a particular car to win, they'd wind down the boost on the other two cars so that person could win. A lot of people disliked the Sierras as well at the time since you couldn't get one from your local Ford dealer in Australia (not even a UK spec base model was available here, although they were assembled and sold in New Zealand), whereas at least there were some GT-Rs that came to be sold by Nissan Australia. The GT-Rs were the only cars in Group A touring car racing that had four wheel drive, four wheel steer and more than one turbo. And in the end, they were the only ones that wouldn't blow up even with 700+bhp coming from the motor. The Commodores at the time only had about 620bhp, were running the same weight as the GT-Rs were in 1991 and only had RWD. The Sierras had about 650bhp, but were lighter, narrower, also only RWD and would either blow up or warp heads if running 650bhp for more than a few hours (ie. at Bathurst). And without the turbo, they'd only get about 90bhp out of them.

13

Great coverage and beautiful pictures!

14

Best article on the website. Love the car and the history. More past or current circuit motorsports!

15

Brilliant write up. More of these kind of stories please!! I would love for a SH story about the saga between Group C and F1 from the early 90s that lead to the death of Group C.
As for where Aussie racing goes from here, it sure will be interesting. The GT scene looks to be doing well, and the 12hr I think is officially a global event, especially after this year and the factory teams. The 6hr Easter race is great too. As far as Supercar, I really have no idea. We just witnessed probably the best season in the sport's history, hopefully things continue in a positive direction.

16

Australian touring cars went in two directions post 1993 - The UK's Supertouring regulations which pretty much died around the year 2000 in Australia after another four wheel drive car being allowed (the Audi A4 which were run by Brad Jones Racing in Australia), and five litre V8 touring cars (which became known as V8 Supercars in 1997 and as of last year, Supercars). Gen 2 regulations for Supercars will be starting as of next year, but only Holden and possibly Nissan have actually committed to that at the moment. Those regulations will allow the use of turbos on fours and sixes, with power, torque and noise restrictions in place. Other than that, the cars will be pretty much the same underneath those composite panels as they are now.

17

Interesting perspective on the GTRs at Bathurst. One clarification:
Nissan held that record because the rules were changed to throw out a safety car for anything, which basically added an hour to every race.

18

Let's get one thing straight - the BNR32 is Godzilla. Not any other generation GT-R

19

Loved the article, some interesting history on the car that I didn't know about as well :)

20

Sorry it's driving me mad. Is that a mechanical fuel pump or what it's that thing with a belt atached to the left pulley of the RB engine head?

Thanks, and amazing photos, an R32 is my dream car.

21

It looks like it could possibly be a water pump for the intercooler? Otherwise you could be right in saying it's a mechanical fuel pump, although they're generally mounted lower on the motor and are integrated into the block. Even by 1991 standards though, I'd expect them to be running electric fuel pumps especially in racing cars.

22
speedhunters_dino

Smiggins Terrible indeed

23
speedhunters_dino

forestersg6 I'm with you on that one

24
speedhunters_dino

NickGalea And a legend was born...

Now Nissan makes the Juke. Oh, how times change...

25

And the ShitboxTronic CVT.

26

Can we have more articles like this please? When you look back at the beginning of SH it was about this. Now it seems to give equal time to questionable builds and content like this. More of this please.

27

Fantastic and well written article! What a wonderful read, loved it.

28

NickGalea The GTR's were like taking a minigun to a knife fight! That video is a good find too! :)

29

There's a fair few of them on YouTube. All you have to do is type in "Gibson Motorsport GTR" and whatever year you want to see them in between 1990 and 1992 and off you go.

30

What a read! Best article I've read in a long time.

31

Smiggins You can't win unfortunately. When a team dominates like in F1 for example it get's boring to watch. So rules must be put in place to even the playing fields.

32

forestersg6 Who knows what the future holds! Similar categories may come around again. :)

33

Supercars as of next year once Gen 2 comes in will be headed in a similar route.

34

contestedground Thank you contestedground :) It's humbling to see such an overwhelming positive response!

35

Merlz Smiggins I agree racing needs to be fairly equal to keep things interesting, the main issue is just how intrusive that level of interference is on development.

36

Twitch_6 V8SC is a great category in it's current form. It would be amazing if Australia was large enough to support two main categories of racing, say the next generation of V8SC and a more mixed field racing under the GT flag! It's unlikely but we can dream, right? ;)

37

Already have Aus GT and it's a great series that follows the FIA's GT regulations.

38

Need more articles like this - how race cars are build in such short amount of time. Seriously, this is some good stuff.

39

THIS is why i come to Speedhunters, awesome article.

40

Jim Richards's comment was very appropriate. Australian crowd was a pack of a**h**es. They wanted Ford Sierra or Holden Commodore to win because Ford and Holden are "Australian cars" ignoring the fact that the Sierra was mass produced in Europe by the British and the VN commodore which had a 3.8 L engine was made in the USA and therefore none of these cars were made in their country. Not sure what cars they can design and make nowadays.

41

Commodore was never made in the USA. Was made by Holden in Adelaide and Melbourne, and the Commodores which ran in Group A all had Holden's own designed and made V8s in them.

42

Bubba Johnson The VN Commodore was made in Australia. The V8 was an aussie V8. and the V6 was also produced in Australia but being US in design.

43
SebAgentOrangeBetts

Brings back a lot of memories of the little racing I watched back then, am also glad I've been able to see this car in person it's an amazing piece of work

44

My guess would be that it's an oil pump for a dry sump system to cope with the sustained high G-loads the engine would encounter. To the best of my knowledge these ran multiple electronic fuel pumps.

45

So the aussies were the ones who developed the r32 gtr. Mmm..

Yes, great read compared to all the stance things.

46

Gibson Motorsport developed it further than what the Japanese were allowed to at the time, as they had massive restrictions on them even then. If they didn't have gearbox and drive shaft issues in Bathurst 1990 then such development wouldn't have been needed.

47

Bubba Johnson Firstly, the VN was mostly Aussie designed and it was homologated with an Aussie built V8, not the American V6. Most fans wanted a commodore to win, ford users werent too happy about the sierra but it was that or nothing, but there were a lot more pissed off that the rules allowed a crashed car to be called the winner, but rules are rules and I agree ol Jim had a right to be annoyed at the ferals

48

rook56 like a bit of cardboard on the track. remember they called out the safety car one year for that! And it wasnt even on the racing line!

49

as for "none of these cars were made in their country."   FIA required 5000 "base models" be built in a calendar year for initial homologation, ie 5000 V8 VNs. Here is Holden's statement in the FIA VN homologation papers that the VN V8 met this requirement

50

Exactly right. Then every manufacturer was then allowed to produce 500 "evolution" models in order to homologate any changes they want made for Group A racing. That was why in 1985 the Commodores that ran were underpowered and overweight, as they were racing the base car and not the HDT SS Group A which didn't get in to be homologated on time for 1985, but was allowed to run in 1986.

51

Great times in motor racing. I remember watching these races as a kid down here in Oz. What a machine. 
I grew to eventually own one. Now bring back the Group racing with less control and rules, like the old days!!

52

Where can I download some high res copies of the photos used in this article? They'd make for some awesome desktop backgrounds.

53

Autopix has them, I think. Otherwise, get in touch with Gibson Motorsport, as they might have some themselves (they do still exist, they just mainly look after the Bluebirds, DR30s, HR31s and of course the R32s that they built, and maybe even the Commodores.

54

I had the privilege to see this car in person together with 3 of the other chassis build by Gibson Motorsports a couple of years back at a historics race event on at Sandown.
They also had the DR30s, HR31s, Bluebirds and the one off Exa!!!

55

There was a reason that Exa Turbo was a one off. Christine Gibson and Glenn Seton both said it was a nightmare to drive.

57

I've actually met someone who was a previous owner of the GIO car who now owns one of the DR30s, told me the total race meet set him back close to 5-7k for one weekend, so he sold it off to purchase the 30...

58

THANK YOU!!! Wonderful story that we never heard over in the States. Reminds me of the Chapparals in the Can-Am series :)

59

Matboy_Au contestedground I know I've stated on Sh many times before, the cool cars get you views, but its things like this that are the real meat and potatoes of the site. Reading about a cool car gets my attention for 5 minutes. I'll keep this story in my head for a lifetime :)

60

'Great story about GTR being Nissan Datsun through and through, people have a short memory the Sierras were world betters too and ran for 10 years and didn't get banned and the Nissan was only a bit over half the displacement of the V8's as well.
Love how Nissan factory took notice of what Fred Gibson did to the GTR, some of the ideas are still used in tuning them to this day

61

speedhunters_dino NickGalea 
I feel terribly sad to what Nissan had become. Where did all the glory days of '70s, '80s, and early '90s had gone

62

I'm amazed that people can earn $7184



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63

Allow me to join the chorus of people praising this fantastic article! VERY WELL DONE! A gripping read from top to bottom and a great story! This is the kind of content that makes me return to SH when all the poserboys with their garage-queen, cookie-cutter builds drive me away!

64
SkotHarleyTurner

klapasch it's a fuel pump to boost fuel pressure at the rail!

65

jmknights93  Link at the bottom of most pics man :)

66

Thommo We grew up in the same era with the same heroes :)
A good time to grow up!

67

jmknights93 Just click the image you'd like, it opens presentation mode. Save and enjoy!
You're welcome! :p

68

Waltizzle Did your friend also own a restaurant at the Central Coast?

69

D1RGE I'll have to do some reading, Vice Versa I've never heard of the Chapparals story :)

70

CultusRamirez Thank you (and everyone else) for the kind words! This is why I love the Speedhunters platform and wider community! :)

71

No he was actually local to me (Vic), I actually knew him because I bought a car off from him. He did say he was a fabricator for the factory team back in the day...

72

Awesome read! I knew most of this but it's good that most people will now be educated on the Godzilla legend and how it came about!

74

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75

So Great!

76

"V8SC is a great catagory is its current form" - I totally agree, but it is changing drastically next year. It will no longer be V8, 4-door exclusive. Massive regulation changes next year, and support of them has been mixed.
This past year was a fantastic season, but with such big changes on the horizon, it's difficult where the "Supercars" series will go.

77

The change in Australian motorsport, not a change for simple minded Australians, a change for the worse. An R32 skyline against Australia's best, A VN commodore?? The Australian public felt this was better?? Just imagine what Australian built cars could have been, if they hadn't banned all other makes from our motorsport scene? Possibly they wouldn't be closing there doors down now. It's taking 25 years to finally build something that's international worthy, every other manufacture achieved this 25 years ago. Australia's so blind and so behind, it could have been different though, a change 25years ago created there own demise.

78

They probably would've closed up in the mid nineties which is what Ford US had wanted.

79

now THAT is functional stance, kids!

80
More Racing Hisotry

Hi Speedhunters, I really enjoy stories like this from the racing past.  Could you do some more stories from around the world?  Like, DTM or Super GT? BTCC? Cams-ams, etc.

Its hard to lean of stories from countries that don't speak English. 

I'd love to read about some glorious battle from Japanese racing in the 70s or something.

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Matt 300ZX  That's a very good point you make about the Sierras, if the Aussies had such a hard time adapting to the new era of electronic wizardry then why not have set eyes on the Fords??? I think Holden must of had the organisers of the series in a arm lock and had much to do with the demise of other teams being involved, it's like they were that kid in the playground who wont share the sandpit at all costs, real pathetic is this was the case and I guess it serves them right to be in the position they're in now days!!!

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They did do that in 1987. At that point in time, they had to run on avgas otherwise they would detune drastically, whereas they were meant to be running on pump fuel at that point. The only reason the fans didn't so much was because the Commodores were still a chance at Bathurst as to run flat out all day in a Sierra was impossible without detuning it somewhat. If they weren't detuned, they would either warp heads or blow turbos to bits. Sierras also didn't have four wheel drive, four wheel steering and any team who wanted one could get one. Nissan restricted GT-Rs somewhat to only being run by one workshop per series it competed in. Gibson Motorsport did in fact prepare and run a customer car for the GIO team, but that was the only customer GT-R that ever existed in Australia at least, which they did the same with the HR31 as well, from memory (the DR30 was a different story and was much like the RS500 Sierra in that anyone who wanted one could get one in a kit and assemble it themselves. Murray Carter was one such person who did this).

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Bubba Johnson  I think the beers where much stronger in the early 90s hence the lack of commonsense and clear judgment on their behalf lol

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DinoSawr Sharing is caring :)

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Matboy_Au D1RGE In a nutshell: Can-Am cars were considered "no limits"...aero, engine, anything goes...Chapparral took that concept and went beyond the call of duty...to the point that they got their cars banned from the series :) Utterly innovative car designer. And Can-Am cars were MONSTERS.

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Waltizzle Matt 300ZX according to the reports of the time, group a was axed for a couple of reasons, officially nothing to do with GMH 1. rising costs (CAMS actually said Group A would allow privateers and smaller teams have a better chance against the factory teams compared to Group C, but that soon proved to be folly) group a cars were becoming incredibly sophisticated and expensive. What was to become V8 Supercars later turned into another folly when the V8s became a consortium and a business rather than merely a racing formula, with teams requiring tens of millions and official approval just to build a car (they control the number of teams), privateers are now long extinct. 2. according to the media, crowds were down, how they came to this conclusion when Bathurst had got bigger and bigger every year after 85 is a mystery, methinks they were talking about falling crowd numbers at some events in the ATCC, and ch7 reckoned the fans ONLY WANTED Ford vs Holden, and it had to be V8s. And once Godzilla proved to be practically unbeatable, even with knobbling, the writing was on the wall for Group A. Shame, I loved seeing multiple manufacturers

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It was falling crowd and viewer numbers of ATCC events. Ratings for ATCC events in 1992 were atrocious to say the least. Before the GT-R even came along though, viewer and crowd numbers for ATCC events was going down due to the top ten mostly being Sierras at every event. They came up a little bit in 1991 after the GT-R had been sorted out but went down again come 1992 since it was now the GT-Rs that were doing all the winning. From memory I don't think the GT-R ever raced around Amaroo Park, although that would've been a spectacle since it would've been a bit more of a mix-up between the GT-Rs and the Sierras.

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sorry but i love r32

Before some people says E30M3 is the best touring car ever, not this, let me put it this way. There is a story: once upon a time (to be precise, 1990), in Macau, there was a FIA spec E30 M3 touring car driven by Pirro, one of the most amazing touring car drivers in the world, got left in the dust by an FIA spec R32 driven by Mr. Hasemi (A legend) for more than 20 seconds in 30 laps. FIA, europeans, was sour and bitter by its success, they added weight to GTRs, put DTM cars to race with FIA GTRs with weights. Unfortunately, that didn't work and as the R33 GTR was on the verge of coming out, Group A was abolished in 1994. In Japan, it won all 29/29 races in Japanese touring car championship, and in Australia, 1991 and 1992, they won and they eventually got banned from ATCC.The R32 turned touring car racing upside down and became the true "king of the road". Its 4WD system puts 959 to shame and it is every bit as fast as the 355 (Jeremy Clarkson's words).

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E30 M3 Evolution wasn't as much of a handful and was a much better balanced car though, which is why it's seen more as being the best Group A touring car around compared to a GT-R. As Larry Perkins put it, the GT-R was more of a racing car, than a touring car, whereas the E30 M3 was a true touring car and even in basic spec, gave the carby VL Group As a run for their money.

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sorry but i love r32 R32 GTR was fantastic there's no doubt about that, but to be fair they ran in a different class with the BMW. GTR ran in division 3 (over 2500cc) and M3 in division 2 (1600-2500). What made the M3 so great was it's ability to punch above it's weight by giving Sierra RS500 a run for it's money. It was pretty clear that group A had no future after M3 and RS500 had turned their respective divisions into almost single marque classes and then came the GTR with even more tech laden to a touring car shell. Also FIA had discontinued the group A already at 1988 and it only survived in national championships. Would have been awesome to see BMW and Ford to build replacements for their aging platforms to fight the GTR, but there simply was no financial sense in it after the discontinuation of the WTCC and the rice of the supertourers.

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Ford had everything there to build a further Evolution special on the RS500 (it would've been similar to a GT-R minus the four wheel steering and the extra couple of cylinders), and in the same turn improve reliability, but they refused to do so. BMW did build a couple of Evolutions on the M3, which Mercedes did the same with the 190E Cosworth, but neither had a hope in hell compared to a Gibson Motorsport GT-R that didn't have any penalties placed upon it. Hell, even the Calsonic GT-Rs wouldn't have had a chance against a Gibson Motorsport equivalent.

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sorry but i love r32

Yeah u r right with the history and class stuff, totally agree. Those aren't my words, they are quoted from some of the top gear and wheels mag, and some website too! ( cannot remember which which). I only wanted to say although gtr annihilated all its rivals around the world, it hasn't had much recognition as an icon til USA can import them. As much as I like GTRs and owns one, I am quite disappointed when people only compares e30 with 86, Sierra, civic, 190e and said either one of those are the best touring car ever when it obviously aren't. The gtr is fast and people hated it, just like the kid in school who score 100 all the time and got isolated...

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The reason they don't compare the GT-R against the likes of the E30 M3 and 325i, 190E, or even the VN SS Group A, is because it was a car that was in a completely different league and because of that was hated at the time. While some people have grown to love it now for the same attributes they hated them initially, many people still have more fond memories of the E30, 190E (remember Phil Ward trying to dig his out up the top of the mountain one year?), HR31, DR30 (ie. Glenn Seton in 1987 in the wet, on slicks) or the VK, VL and VN HDT/HSV Group A Commodores than they do of the GT-R's dominance.

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Matt 300ZX FIA discontinued group A in 1988 after Sierra and M3 dominated their divisions. DTM banned turbos in 1991 and ballasted the shit out of Sierra in 1989 after which Ford left. BTCC went to 2 liter super touring rules in 1991 after Sierra being the only group A car in the grid in 1990. You say Sierra wasn't banned?

GTR was simply too late. There wasn't any manufacturer interest for developing even more complicated and expensive machinery and then producing thousands of them. All the competitors were aging platforms and no successors were in the pipeline. It's actually surprising that Aussies continued with group A as long as they did.

GTR was not banned. Group A touring cars simply died as a class.

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Vittorio Jano Matt 300ZX "GTR was not banned. Group A touring cars simply died as a class."  remember the following year when Sierra's were allowed to run in the "under 2 litre" class but with no turbo. sadly the same could not be done with the GTR because it was larger than 2L

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I really enjoyed reading these comment because I have never really been able to love the GTR despite it being an obviously amazing car. I am starting to get it.
Maybe it is what the e30 stand for? By that I mean it and the 190 evo basically spawned DTM which leveled up touring car racing.

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DavidWhite12 Vittorio Jano Matt 300ZX Why wouldn't they let them compete in a class where they fit? I'm sure there were 2 liter Skylines back then too.

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There wasn't really in the way of R32s. HR31 and DR30 though, there were. And in Australia they would've had to have badged the two litre HR31s "Pintara".

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Frothing. Just frothing. So it turns our 'Godzilla' was born in Australia - is this surprising? i mean it's like a Kangaroo, crossed with a large Goanna, with underwater living capabilities it was taught by Sharks, or something... 

Also not surprising, that as an Aussie i have read and mourned about on numerous occasions, is the reaction from the parochial fans at Bathurst when a foreign supercar dominated the series. And dominated without the use of a V8, which at the time was all those thick-skulled bogans could theorize as possible world-beating engine. 

If only! If only the fans had been receptive! The Australian domestic market R32 GTR (available from Nissan in 1991 only i believe) is about the rarest of GTRs going around because the local market could not understand it. They went and bought SS Commodores and Falcons with Windsor V8s - which are cool in their own right, don't get me wrong. 

Anyway, love the article. When i return to Aus one day i must get myself another R32, preferrably an '89 model with the license plate "BRN-80S", or any year with "MT-KING" or "GT-AARR" just because everyone wants to be a road pirate riding Godzilla...

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Bill marsh I totally agree that closing the doors in racing was a precursor to the doors closing in manufacturing. It closed Australian industry from innovation driven by motorsport. V8 Supercars still has innovation but because of the control chassis and driveline it isn't innovation that help local manufacturers be competitive. 

Some of the best local innovation that has come out of Ford and Holden can't be used in our current pinnacle of racing - the turbo 6s from Ford have no home in racing, the magnetic suspension from Holden and the quad cam V6 have no home for motorsport development, and thus are being shipped off to the US for manufacturing.

So sad.

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Alloytec was used in Formula Holden around 2005. They were run alongside the 3.8s.

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Excellent article. I love these interesting racing stories.

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Great write up!  Thank you for the history lesson.

Author106
Matthew Everingham

My pleasure :)

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What Gibson's team achieved was simply amazing. But the cost of Group A was insanely high, which is why the GT-Rs were the final blow to the category. As much as we like seeing innovation/engineering/performance like this on the showrooms, it was unsustainable. Hell, even the Gibson HR31s were wonderful examples of "playing within the rules". E.g.
http://i50.photobucket.com/albums/f345/niZmO_Man/oranpark_historics09/DSC04679.jpg
"Factory intake components must be present in the engine bay and attached to the intake" (not actual quote from the rulebook).

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niZmO_Man that looks to be the correct inlet manifold and exhaust manifold for the HR31 according to the FISA Group A homolgation papers. Both were homologated as "evolution of type" of the Skyline HR31 on the 1st October 1987 (just in time for Bathurst, but sadly didnt eventuate, the DR30 ran instead)

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That was because they didn't have the HR31s built in time. Although by then, the DR30s were better than they were in 1986.

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DavidWhite12 niZmO_Man You didn't notice the factory airflow meter on the passenger side strut tower...

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Rowan Day I'm not so sure about the protest being specifically against the GTR, but more about a crashed car winning the race or even that the results were taken back 2 laps before the red flag not the logical one.  There had been enough time for people to accept the GTR was a fast and worthy winner.

It was also a perfect exploitation of the Group A rules, which had what would prove to be a too-small equivalency factor for turbocharged engines and none for AWD.  As the GTR was basically the last car homologated it took things to the furthest extent; however the Sierra RS500 had arguably already killed the category.

Also don't forget that the GTR road car cost $110k in the middle of the recession - nobody could afford it and few people who could were spending big $$$ on toys.  Even the ridiculously expensive VN Group A Commodore was 'only' $75k-ish, while a normal Commodore SS was around $30k.

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Vittorio Jano DavidWhite12 Matt 300ZX Nobody would have been interested in building a new engine to put in a too-heavy GTR, it wouldn't have been competitive.  Also there were only 3 GTR's racing here, so the cars weren't available in the first place.

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Vittorio Jano DavidWhite12 Matt 300ZX Oops 4 GTR's as pictured below - I saw those cars in person.  There were only 3 racing at any one time, the two Gibson cars plus the Gibbs GIO car which cost AUD$650k - no wonder there weren't any privateer cars.  When Gibbs upgraded from a Commodore to the GTR, all the GIO insurance agencies were asked to double their contribution to the advertising budget aka race team sponsorship and didn't accept it.

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The GIO team used to switch between the two. Some rounds they'd run the Commodore, but in others they ran the GT-R.

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mirthless Don't forget the GTR as a road car already existed as a road car and there were a lot of teams racing the GTR in Japan.  I have spoken to Fred Gibson, and he tells the story that he was told in no uncertain terms by Nissan or Nismo (can't recall exactly) that they were not to get involved (eg sell parts) with racing in other parts of the world.  This is because Nismo had a nice business covering that, even if some of the Gibson Motorsport stuff was better.

Nice to see the recognition for Alan Heaphy too.  He also did a lot of motorsport work with Mazda in later years, eg creating the RX7 and Mazda MX5 SP here in Australia.

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Alan Heaphy also had something to do with Tickford in later years, from memory.

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I believe it was Allan Horsley who led Mazda Motorsport Australia, not Alan Heaphy.
The MX5 SP had its parts fitted at Tickford / Prodrive in Melbourne.

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Turbology Racing improves the breed

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very good and informative article.Now thats a good speedhunter reading.toped with the videos.
just wow.good job!
i had to read some passages twice,could believe it.

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I was standing next to Fred in pit lane when the GTR had it's first race at Oran Park.

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