The R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R has a long history of race wins and track records, including at Australia’s Mount Panorama. In fact, Australian Touring Car racing is where the GT-R’s famed and feared “Godzilla” nickname comes from. Now, its little sister model, the GTS-T has a record of its very own on the hallowed grounds of the Bathurst racetrack—and what it did to much newer race cars there may stun you.
Over the weekend, the Bathurst 12 Hour endurance race was held yet again at Mount Panorama. Yes, the tourist-drive/legendary racetrack hosts more than one endurance race. The 12 Hour has existed in a few different iterations since it began in 1991, and it features plenty of local color to go with all the speed. The 1992 race even had a Holden Ute enter, sponsored by the default choice of hat for Aussie farmers, Akubra.
In 1995 it moved to Eastern Creek Raceway in Sydney, but it all ended a year later. A 24-hour race was held at Mount Panorama in 2003 and 2004 (which the Holden Monaro won both times) before hitting pause again. Finally, the 12-hour series was revived in 2007 and continues to this day. The race is open to GT3-spec and Production-class cars, with the GT3 version of the AMG GT securing victory this year with the SunEnergy1 AKKodis ASP Team.
So how does an ancient Skyline figure into this? The GTS-T Skyline in question was racing in the Combined Sedans support category, which had three races and was a quite diverse category as it was bringing together Spaceframe, Chassis and V8 Touring classes. The field had the expected Chevrolet Camaros and Corvettes, late-model Commodores but also included such cars as a Nissan 280ZX, a Rover Vitesse/SD1, a 1985 ‘VK’ Commodore and even a Fiat 124. Some real blasts from the past here, I know.
The no. 66 car, the Racetec Performance R32 Skyline, was listed as a GT-R but is actually a GTS-T; for anyone who didn’t get their car education from the first PlayStation, that meant it had rear-wheel-drive instead of the GT-R’s famed all-wheel-drive, and had a smaller single-turbo inline-six vs. the GT-R’s bigger twin-turbo unit. Call it a Diet GT-R if you like, although in the tuning community, many parts are often interchangeable.
Now, nobody would accuse Racetec Performance’s car of being a “diet” anything. A Tasmanian outfit, the Skyline runs an RB-series inline-six-cylinder and is reported to make 1,171 horsepower based on photos on their Facebook page. It’s had some work done, in other words.
Entering the weekend with no big expectations, the car performed well and dominated qualifying. In the first race on Friday, the car retired due to mechanical issues. Then, driver and owner Bradley Sheriff managed to climb from 38th to 2nd in the second race of the series.
The video of this went viral over the weekend. You’ll see why about 15 seconds in:
Holy crap, that thing was GOOOOONE ???????? pic.twitter.com/Dnnjlsdlnu
— Mark Whitelegge (@Mark_Whitelegge) February 5, 2023
(Editor’s note: for the first five seconds I was like “Cool Forza mod.” –MH) But in the process, he broke the minimum lap time of 2.09.000, and hit at least 320km/h on Conrod Straight. That’s 198.839 mph—pretty impressive for a car of that vintage. And it’s faster than most stuff you see out there. The Supercars (formerly named V8 Supercars) series race in the Bathurst 1000 only just crest 300km/h, although the lap record for that category belongs to Chaz Mostert who managed 2:04.7602 in 2019.
As a result of breaking this regulated lap time, the Skyline was moved back one position for the third race. Whilst leading the race in this finale, he hit the wall at the sixth corner, Reid Park, ending the run for this Nissan on the weekend.
Due to the #66 Racetec Performance Skyline GTS-T repeatedly going over 320km/h on Conrod over the weekend, Motorsport Australia—the country’s FIA-affiliated racing body—launched an investigation due to their concerns over safety as most categories that race at Bathurst do not exceed 300km/h.
In response, Sheriff has decided to retire the car and turn it into a display piece for his tuning shop.
“It comes as no surprise to have just been contacted by someone from Motorsport Australia that I have much respect for with concerns in regard to our car’s straight-line handling and it’s engine’s power output,” Sheriff said on Facebook. “I can assure you that this weeks priority at MA will mean that the car will be repaired and become a display piece in the shop.”
He added, “I understand the concerns with safety and complications with the speeds, but when you are running a car based on a stock Nissan driven by a very ordinary driver trying to compete with space frame cars weighing much less against much more talented operators it’s a game that becomes unattractive to me.”
This isn’t the first time that the R32 Nissan Skyline has skirted controversy in Australia. The Group A/3A lap record at Bathurst is still held by an R32 GT-R (2:14.50, in the hands of Mark Skaife in 1991), and the car dominated the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1991 & 1992 (and helped win the title in 1990 alongside the R31 GTS-R) as well as winning the Bathurst 1000 in both years with between 450 to 650hp and ever-increasing weight penalties and other technical regulations.
It was Gibson Motorsport in Australia that gave the R32 chassis some of its first wins, and the Nismo ‘N1’ version of the engine block of the RB26DETT was developed with some notes from that team from their experiences with cracking at certain areas of the block under high boost levels. Skylines and the RB engine in particular have always been popular in Australia, the tuning scene around these remains very strong and some of the first RB series engines to crest 1,000 hp were built in Australia.
The domination of this car and the turbocharged Ford Sierras saw the end of Group A/3A in Australia and the Bathurst 1000 and races of the series turned into Holden vs Ford “V8 Supercars” category instead.
The 1992 Bathurst 1000 is steeped in controversy, as it ended early due to extreme wet weather. The race was red-flagged on Lap 145 of 161 after several crashes, including the leading Nissan Skyline GT-R driven by Mark Skaife and Jim Richards. The race was then wound back by two laps to determine the final standings.
Second-place winner Dick Johnson (Ford Sierra) was making a fuss as his car was still operable on Lap 145 and so believed he should be the winner. He stated this belief more than once to the crowd as he collected his trophy. As the Skaife and Richards ascended the podium under a chorus of booing, Richards was already upset as his friend and 1967 Formula 1 World Champion Denny Hulme had passed away earlier in the race of a heart attack whilst behind the wheel of a BMW M3. Richards had enough of this by that point, and famously called the assembled crowd a “pack of arseholes” for their behavior.
It will be interesting to see if this Combined Sedans category is repeated in future years, but I can imagine the scrutiny will be enhanced on future entries and particularly any Nissan Skylines after this jaw-dropping display.
Above all, it’s great to remember the R32 Skyline can still do it. If anyone ever forgets, show them that video above.
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I watched the last couple hours of the 12 hour this weekend, really fun finish for the top class, what a cool race!
Hold up. You lose a place in the race for completing a lap too quickly???
WTF is going on here?
Sorry, Australia, you don’t know how to race. From now on I’m calling all your races “Timed Road Rallys” or “TSD Events” instead.
By all means, champ…come and drive a few laps of Bathurst in a car that can do a lap in under 2:09 whilst trundling about with a bunch of other ‘slower’ cars, mostly driven by semi skilled amateurs.
Then decide how wise it is to place a speed restriction on it. I’ve driven it a number of times in a variety of vehicles and I can assure you that trying to do the Mountain component of the track at anything above 80 km/h is a licence to make a massive mistake.
I’ve only experienced it in sims, but that section is a verified butt-clencher.
I’d say given the publicity he’d do it again… That clip is worth more than winning the race. After all we’re talking about it, would we otherwise?
“Minimum times” are a thing in all racing, believe it or not. For safety reasons.
The Dodge Challenger SRT Demon is permanently banned from NHRA stock class, because anything that runs under 10 seconds must have a certified roll cage. Period.
There are many events I am not allowed to run my 997.2 flat out at, period. Because there’s enough track for it to easily hit speeds of over 160MPH and potentially 190MPH. A helmet and stock 3-point belts won’t do shit for you at those kind of speeds.
Even NASCAR’s byzantine old boys club has actual minimum lap times in the form of maximum speed limits, ever since the days of the Superbird. Restrictor plates aren’t just there to create trains; Buddy Baker had an averaged speed of 177.602MPH for an entire Daytona 500. But Bill Elliott owns the absolute record with his ’87 Thunderbird that hit 212.809MPH. ON TALLADEGA. Which was also the race where Bobby Allison’s car flew into the crowd, the very event that brought about restrictor plates.
Every single form of racing has some form of speed limit – for safety reasons.
Virtually every other form of racing enforces the desired performance limits by saying “Hey, congratulations, good job, you won the race!” and then changing the rules, not by saying “Hey, you went too fast, you lose a place.”
You’re only correct in that most series don’t bump you down a spot.
Most series immediately black flag and disqualify you.
The rest is purely a delusional refusal on your part to accept facts written in black and white in rulebooks and often in blood. I can only presume from a strong desire to kill yourself driving like an idiot while screaming “NO AIRBAGS, WE DIE LIKE MEN!”
No, you’re not paying attention to what I wrote.
If your car or equipment is against the rules, you get a DQ. You should get a DQ. If your driving is against the rules by endangering anyone by means other than going faster than anyone else, or by exceeding the limits during a caution period, you should get a DQ.
But if you win within the existing rules, then you are the winner, AND THEN they can change the rules.
Any rules that have minimum lap times are regulating something other than racing. They’re regulating Time-Speed-Distance events. Nothing wrong with that, but I’m never intentionally calling that a race, because it is not a race. If you get a penalty of any sort by going too fast with any legally permissible equipment, fuel, and supplies, the event is not actually a race.
I’ve read that NASCAR teams can still sometimes test without the plates in, and some actually occassionally do. And the drivers all say it’s positively scary the way the car behaves once it’s past 200. Not to mention knowing that all the various safety features aren’t guaranteed to work.
I’ve said for years that the manufacturers should go back to running the body & drivetrain that the car is manufactured with. Add safety equipment (roll bars and fire extinguishers), but the drivetrain and suspension are whatever is available to Joe Putz through the Friendly Local Dealer.
There’s a very, very, very good reason nobody does this and it’s a terrible idea.
A NextGen car weighs 3200lbs without driver and fuel. And the engine and transmission package are less than 500lbs of it. It’s essentially a (badly designed) safety cage with an extremely thin fiberglass skin.
That’s how much cage it takes to stand up to 180MPH high impact crashes.
Now try to imagine applying over 1500lbs of additional safety steel to a factory sedan that already weighs 3800lbs. That weight determines the amount of energy in a collision. So we’ve increased the car’s weight from 3800lbs to over 5300lbs.
This weight increase to 5300lbs means we need more safety cage, which means more weight.
Creating exponential growth. To stand up to 5300lbs, we need to add 650lbs, which then creates a requirement for more power and transmission, so now we’re over 6000lbs.
So we need to add more power and we need to add more reinforcement in an endless repeating cycle.
I’m not an expert by any means, but I don’t think there’s any rules that prohibit testing unrestricted, only that prohibit how much testing and where. So it wouldn’t surprise me if some teams did that.
It also doesn’t surprise me at all that the car is terrifying at 200MPH. These are teams that are looking for every single fraction of a millimeter they can get away with to reduce drag at 150-180MPH. You know, that aerodynamic feature required to generate the downforce to keep the car on the ground. (Unless you’re Gordon Murray.)
Seems similar to bracket racing on a dragstrip. Break your bracket ET, lose the race.
The FIA track licence is conditional on a few factors. In place in the supplementary regulations for this event (the combined touring car race) a minimum lap time was installed. There are different categories of FIA track certifications and they include a max power to weight ratio. the skyline was well outside that. If you have ever watched a V8 supercar disassemble itself at the end of Conrod Straight it makes sense. The GT3 race had no minimum laptime, but the GT3 cars would have a far more substantial safety system than the largely grassroots cars that were in the support race.
I have no problem with rules, as long as “you’re too good at this so we’re retroactively taking away your accomplishment” isn’t one of them.
If they can’t enforce performance limits on the machines, then do it by modifying the track. Failing both, it’s a Time-Speed-Distance event.
So the driver just wanted to show off the car and didn’t bother to sandbag it.
Laurence, thank you for coming to The Autopian bringing Aussie representation. Absolutely stoked to see this story covered, that R32 is astonishing, however it might be worth clarifying that it is running an RB26 stroker (2.8L) there’s plenty of engine nerds around here.
Also, a total side note, this is the first article I’ve seen with ads in it and I didn’t even notice them until the last ad in the article, so the implementation is pretty good for me so far.
Well done to Mr. Sheriff. After all, a man’s got to know his limitations. And that car is nuts!
Interesting, Racetec got great advertising, a legend was created.
Rules are revised to suit, don’t try that again.
That’s how it’s meant to work.
A definite thumbs up. Thanks Laurence. (-:
I had no idea that Australia got Ford Sierras back in the day. Wow…where weren’t they sold?
(I’m forever a fan of the version we got here in the States for a brief moment in the ’80s,
a captive import from Europe that Ford decided to give its own sub-brand + an odd-but-somehow-compelling name…the Merkur XR4ti)
The Sierra was not sold in oz, but it did race as it was homologated as a Group A car. The only ones that are in Australia are personal imports, or ones that came in under various schemes after the 15 year rule was introduced in the early naughties. Aussies scalped the market for all the cool 80s and 90s cars 15-20 years ago.
To follow from that, the 15 year rule ended up being changed to pre 1990 I think, then other systems have come and gone since.
Wow…that’s wild – Aussies got to watch a touring car racer of which they couldn’t buy the street version.
Here in the U.S., the Chevy Monte Carlo had buyers in the ’00s seemingly only because of NASCAR. You could at one point even get a Dale Earnhardt Sr. graphics package…lots o checkered flag striping.
I think it’s part of what drove the ‘return’ to the Falcon vs Commodore Supercars format thereafter.
The Sierra’s were great to watch race, but undermined the ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ ethos.
Plus, we like V8s.
That “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” ethos continued to be ignored when subsequent Supercars series had V8 Nissan Altima and V8 ZB Holden Commodores, neither of which were available with V8 engines to the public.
But what’s this I read above that the series is no longer “V8 Supercars,” just “Supercars”!? Oh the humanity!
Is it a bowing to the realities of the modern smaller engines with forced induction paradigm?
They never actually sold Sierra’s to the public in Australia, we got stuck with something mundane like the First Telstar instead….but the only place Nissan sold the R32 GTR outside of Japan was in Australia, although only 100 of them.
There were 106 R32 GT-Rs sold in Australia actually, but the other six were imported before Nissan brought theirs in by Scuderia Imports:
A guy I knew some years back and shared a house with (in my Datsun phase, where we all owned Datsun 1600s with import motors or homebrew turbo setups) was a mechanic at Garry Rogers Nissan a few years after they had been one of the Nissan dealers that sold their allocation of the “official’ batch of R32s. He was always pestering the boss for a chance to work on one, but they had ONE mechanic who was the only person trusted to service customer GT-Rs and test drive them – probably a good idea, since some of the stories my mate told me about what they got up to at a Jaguar/Rover dealer he worked at later would have got all the mechanics sacked on the spot!
Never knew that, but I’ll believe Motive Video as Andrew Hawkins owns that 8 second, 1100hp at the hubs R32 GTR, so he knows GTR’s!
Think his runs a RB30, not a RB26 though. Sacrilege to some!