Keeping The JGTC Dream Alive
More Than Memories

As much as I enjoy watching modern motorsport push the boundaries of what’s possible on a race track, the nostalgic part of me still gets very excited by the good old days.

Last month, the spectacle that is the Yokohama World Time Attack Challenge gave Australian fans the chance to experience the authentic sights and sounds of circa 2000 Japanese JGTC racing.

Now I’m not going to insert the cliché claim that the cars of yesteryear were purer or better than they are today, instead, let’s save that battle for the comments section. What I will say is that the cars of days gone by looked and sounded different to the contemporary offerings. Not only were they limited by the technology of the time, but cars of the past always offer a fascinating insight into what was important during their era of competition.

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This connection provides an exciting way for fans to learn and interact with a period they may have never lived or otherwise been able to experience.

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For most of us westerners, our early experience with Japanese motorsport was limited to various video games and the occasional bonus DVD that shipped with a performance automotive magazine. It wasn’t until a few years later that the explosion of the internet would enable global fans to connect with the then-obscure but awesome GT300 and GT500 Japanese GT cars.

The race cars of JGTC represented the ultimate racing version of the Japanese sports cars that so many of us lusted over while growing up. While the majority of us are satisfied creating our street or track JDM-inspired racers, the owners of these two pieces of motorsport heritage have taken their commitment to the next level.

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What surprised me most when talking to Dale Malone about his GT300 Nissan Silvia S15 and Aidan Barrett about his GT300 RE Amemiya FD3S Mazda RX-7 was just how similar their stories were. Regardless of leading very different lives in separate countries, the driving force behind both gentlemen was almost identical.

Nismo S15 Nissan Silvia GT300
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Dale was first introduced to his Silvia through late-night television during his early high school years. Even though his introduction was limited to a super-short weekly JGTC wrap in a more extended world sporting show, it was still long enough to have made a lasting impact.

To him, the S15 is one of the purest and rawest GT racing cars ever produced by Nissan, and the GT300 S15 Silvia and GT500 R34 Skyline GT-R represent the last great era of Nissan motorsport cars. That’s a period that began with the early ’80 Group C prototypes from Nissan, followed by domination of the R32 Skyline GT-R in Group A, Le Mans/Daytona success in the early ’90s, and finally the S15/R34 dominance of the 2000-2004 period.

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That explains the connection, but appreciating a car and taking ownership are two very different situations. Buying and restoring the factory-built Nismo Silvia was Dale’s way of both enjoying and preserving a piece of working history from what many people define as the golden age of Japanese motorsport.

This specific car was Nismo’s chassis #2 of three built under the management of Hasemi Motorsport. The car enjoyed quite a successful career, with nine podiums out of 15 races, four pole positions, and five lap records. Although the car finished as runner-up in both seasons, its sister car, the Daishin Silvia, won the championship twice. The Silvia’s class lap record held for 10 long years, finally toppled by the Subaru BRZ GT300.

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The crazy plan to own the Silvia began way back in 2009 after Dale discovered the car was up for sale. But by the time he could make a serious offer, the vehicle was already sold and on its way to Norway, where it previously featured on Speedhunters.

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It wasn’t until 2015 that the opportunity to buy the car re-emerged. The car’s condition over the years had deteriorated, but still, after a little negotiating and a lot of partying at Gatebil, a deposit was placed and the lengthy process to restore the car was underway.

RE Amemiya FD3S Mazda RX-7 GT300
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Not too dissimilar to Dale’s story, Aidan Barrett was first introduced to his newly acquired JGTC FD3S Mazda RX-7 as a young teenager. Rather than seeing the car on television, Aidan was fortunate enough to be visiting an uncle who lived within walking distance of RE Amemiya’s headquarters in Chiba, Japan.

Even as a young teen, Aidan was a self-confessed rotary addict, and made sure to take a daily walk to drool over the abundance of precious metal on display within the RE Amemiya workshop. Standing there, he made a promise to himself: one day he’d either build or buy a piece of RE Amemiya history to occupy his home garage back in New Zealand.

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Aidan would be waiting a while to fulfil that promise; little things like life, a career, and a family can sometimes change one’s priorities. Eventually, the long wait paid off. Fast forward to this year when he stumbled across a seller with an exceptional car: an RE Amemiya GT300 Mazda FD3S RX-7. Having only owned the car a short time Aidan is still researching its full history, but what’s known is that the car was campaigned by Isami Amemiya’s team from 1999 to 2001.

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It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, but there was one slight issue: the car was located on the Western Coast of Australia, quite a distance to travel from New Zealand. Time was of the essence, too. Relying on images and reports from locals was a massive risk, but ultimately one Aidan was prepared to take. The Wednesday before last month’s WTAC would not only be the first time Aidan would drive the bright yellow FD3S, but the first time he’d even seen it in person.

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In his eyes though, the opportunity to own such an exciting piece of history was worth taking a chance on. Regardless of the finer details, the amount of development work and the car’s pedigree guaranteed it would be exceptional. Getting the Mazda out on track for the first time was indescribable. The noises, the smells, the history; it was an incredible experience for the entire team, and one that they’ll never forget.

Once the car completes its voyage home to New Zealand, Aidan hopes to complete some endurance racing with the car and continue to use it for its intended purpose. Outside of Japan, New Zealand is possibly home to the most capable and devout rotary enthusiasts on the planet, so I’m sure the car will thrive in its new environment.

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As rewarding as driving these racing legends must be, both owners seemed to be more interested in keeping what they both consider to be Japan’s most exciting era of racing alive. And with that they’re able to share the experience with all of us, too.

Matthew Everingham
Instagram: matthew_everingham
matt@mattheweveringham.com

Nismo S15 Nissan Silvia GT300

Power Output:
450hp (limited)

Engine:
Nismo GT SR22DET, Nismo GT specially cast engine block/cylinder head, magnesium Nismo dry sump. Haltech Elite 2500 engine management system

Drivetrain:
HGT Precision 6-speed sequential gearbox, ATS triple-plate carbon clutch, Nismo GT LSD

Suspension/Brakes:
Inboard bell-crank rear suspension horizontally mounted above diffuser, Bilstein dampers, AP Racing 6pot callipers/380mm rotors front, Alcon/Nismo 6-pot callipers/335mm rotors rear

Wheels/Tyres:
SSR 18×11-inch center-lock wheels, 280/710R18 front tyres, 310/710R18 rear tyres

Chassis/Body:
Original Silvia chassis & floor pan, C-West GT Aero developed body panels, carbon fibre roof, doors & boot, carbon-Kevlar guards & bumpers

RE Amemiya FD3S Mazda RX-7 GT300

Power Output:
300hp (estimated)

Engine:
Mazda 20B three-rotor, peripheral ported, JGTC air restrictor, MoTeC M4 engine management system

Drivetrain:
Hewland 6-speed dog box, RE Amemiya twin-plate clutch, Mazdaspeed LSD

Suspension/Brakes:
Quantum/RE Amemiya dampers, Brembo 380mm front brakes, Brembo 335mm rear brakes

Wheels/Tyres:
Desmond Regamaster Evo 18×9.5-inch centre-lock wheels, Yokohama Advan 250/650R18 front tyres, 280/680R18 rear tyres

Chassis/Body:
Original FD3S RX-7 chassis & floor, RE Amemiya/Bomex developed panels, carbon fibre doors & bonnet, GRP guards & bumpers

WTAC 2017 on Speedhunters

The Cutting Room Floor
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33 comments

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1

I'd love to scoop up a battered old FD as a project car, but owning a rotary seems pretty involved with limited shops that can work on them. At least we have the Focus RS and Civic Type R to look towards.

2

Rotaries are easy to work on. Most people just shy away because they don't know anything about them but it only takes doing some good research and anyone can build it.

3

Both of these cars are beautiful because of clean, simple lines and good proportions.

CLEAN, SIMPLE LINES and GOOD PROPORTIONS.

Are you listening, car companies?

4

Many modern cars are so cluttered and fussy design wise. Its as if they come up with arbitrary design philosophies in house and then force them on the customer without considering what the customer wants... That's before they even begin to consider the ever more complex rules and regulations involved in making an automobile.

5

Mazda is

6

That widebody rx7 is anything except good simple lines... But I love it. I'd also be willing to bet a silent majority love our sharp angles and wider bodied cars.

7

I'm glad that the Silvia has return to its original battle livery. And see the car more often as we didn't see a lot of them outside Japan. Let alone in original condition.

8
John Jeremiah Sy

Is the FD running a sequential or an H pattern?

9
Jay Soh Tsu Chung

So is the S15 still running the Opel V6 that it has when it was in Norway, or has it been restored back to the original SR20?

10

Yes back to an original JGTC SR20 works engine, managed to get a spare that was in Japan and needed overhaul.

Author11
Matthew Everingham

Nismo GT SR22DET, Nismo GT specially cast engine block/cylinder head, magnesium Nismo dry sump. Haltech Elite 2500 engine management system

12

Back when JGTC/Super GT was unique and not another DTM-class race in Japan or FIA-GT3 domination race.
Needs to tell the Japanese these two and a GT300 350Z is safe and kept properly in foreigners' hands.

13

My favorite article in a while.

Author14
Matthew Everingham

Thanks Mike!

15

I wonder how much a Nismo magnesium dry sump goes for? both these cars are amazing.

16

kinda sad to not see some engine shots :(

Author17
Matthew Everingham

Me too. Unfortunately, I had about 15 minutes to shoot both cars, oh, and one of the cars was missing a tailshaft at the time which meant that I was only able to shoot for about 10 of those 15 minutes. :(

18

Just need a Calsonic Skyline, and a Castrol Supra...Early 00's JGTC cars looked so good!

Author19
Matthew Everingham

I'll place my order now for next years WTAC... :p

20

What a brilliant article! Its so good to read about everyday people grabbing GT cars, what a dream come true.

21

Beautiful cars to see up close, specially for us Aussies all the way over here.

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22

Thanks Cam as a much younger kid the fiat bambino was the car I always wanted so great to see them together.

Author24
Matthew Everingham

Thanks for sharing Cam. :)

25
Mark Joseph I. Argoso

I won't make a modern v classic argument, and instead focus on just how damn near perfect Super GT/JGTC has always been, and how it can show the road to a better future in tin-top touring.

See, even as Super GT is moving to seal Class One (which, BTW, is Super GT's idea), the racing could have not been better. As always, GT500 is at a cutting edge of aero and tire development, even with a spec turbo-4 engine, and every event is a nail-biter from start to finish. And to the guy who seems to lament the prevalence of worldwide GT cars: maybe, but it's not like they're getting away with it easy, what with home GT3 cars, classic GT300, and Mother Chassis cars pressuring them day in and day out, and I reckon it's time the Europeans introduce their own unobtanium. Again, the quality of racing never dropped, with decisive in-traffic moves and drag races.

But the biggest improvement is coverage. Thanks to NISMO TV and their YouTube page, more people can watch Super GT and can do so at their leisure, because the entire race is on the channel.

Truth is, we're better off counting our blessings. Sure, progress may have pasteurized aspects of the series, but Super GT still exists in its current form today, and with Class One the series will keep on. The format is perfect. DTM should look into joining with the ADAC GT Masters, and I think the American Trans-Am series could easily adapt a lower-cost, V8-powered version of Class One for TA2, and partner with Pirelli World Challenge, too.

Let's believe in GT Association. Or at least let's believe that they can make Class One racing work.

26

Hello Mark,

While i agree with some things, there is still a lot of problems with the current category and where its headed.
1) The teams hold the power of decision and get implemented what they want, on their terms or they threaten to bail.
2) There is no weak or strong points to the car anymore. This is something true GT3 has along with BOP that has proven different cars can compete - in different chassis with different power plants and dynamics.
3)All of the cars are the same - there is nothing resembling or motivating a manufacturer to produce a good road car that translates to a race car. We see the BRZ and Prius and LC500 reflect nothing of the performance or character of a real road car they are "derived" from. Its a slippery path down once you lose the character of the road car - the supporters have no true emotional ties to the brand and the brand gets watered down. Nismo is THE best example for this.

27

Great post. Super GT is one of the best series on the planet right now. The cars are spectacular, fast, loud, and the racing is edge-of-your seat from start to finish.

28

Great article thanks Matt & stunning photos. Sorry for making a photographers life even harder as they say that’s motor racing

29
Benjamín Inostroza

What ever happened to Regamaster Evos?? I would love to see them on current builds, especially in white. Such a shame.

30

Check out the honda scene. Nearly all performance oriented EG/EK Civics and integra have them or the spoon sw388's (black regas).

Love these cars by the way! Especially the rx7

31
Benjamín Inostroza

Sure! And every Civic and Integra looks the part on them. I just would expect them to be on production.

32

Thank the JDM gods the Silvia now has a proper SR20 in it and not that Opel engine anymore...

33

great artcle, love that rx7

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