The Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R arrived in Australia from Japan in 1990 with the nickname of ‘Godzilla’. By the time Gibson Motorsport literally turned the car upside down over the next 12 months, they’d created perhaps the greatest touring car in the world. We caught up with Mark Skaife and Jim Richards 30 years on from their comprehensive 1991 Bathurst 1000 win, where they qualified 1.2 seconds ahead of their nearest rival and won the race by a lap at record pace, in SupercarXtra Magazine issue #123.
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Five-time Australian Touring Car Championship winner Skaife openly admits that the Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R “polarised people”, but for Nissan fans that supported Fred Gibson and George Fury with the Bluebird in the early 1980s through to the arrival of the Skyline RS DR30 in the mid-80s and finally the R32 GT-R, it was the hero car they’d been waiting for.
“It’s easy to be disparaging of what was the most advanced touring car in the world of the day,” says Skaife. “But it really changed the face of Australian racing where we actually saw a regulation change; the car was effectively banned! The series changed at the end of 1992, and basically we went to what we’ve got today.”
Skaife took the first of his six Bathurst 1000 wins in 1991 in the GT-R and says he remembers it like it was yesterday.
“It was a pretty powerful time in a young racing driver’s life when you win your first Bathurst, especially winning it with Jim Richards and Fred Gibson’s team,” reflects Skaife.
“So many of the people were almost like family members. It was essentially a complete Japanese-spec car when it arrived in 1990. And by the time we got to the end of the year in 1991, it had become an Australian-ised Nissan GT-R, which was not only faster but certainly more reliable and durable.”
Four-time Australian Touring Car Championship winner Richards says after his 1990 and 1991 championship successes, they knew the GT-Rs would be fast for the 1991 Bathurst 1000.
“The main thing I remember was that we knew if the car didn’t have a mechanical failure at all, then we could probably win it,” says Richards.
“Basically, it was a trouble-free run for us; everything went really well and it was a great moment for Nissan… reliability wasn’t a problem because we weren’t running a lot of boost.
“The car had four-wheel drive, so although the Sierras could keep up for four or five laps, we could pull away after their tyres got a bit worn because we had four wheels doing the driving and they had two wheels doing the driving.
“So we were never really worried about them, to be honest. We knew if we drove it fast that there was no car out there in the race that could actually beat us.”
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