1991 Bathurst-1000-winning Godzilla lives #throwbackthursday
In 1991 Godzilla set a new lap record at Mount Panorama and dominated that year’s 1000-kilometre race… then it went missing… in Thailand.
IT WAS THE late 1980s and on race tracks all over the world, the Nissan Skyline HR31 was beginning to lag quicker rivals, like the BMW 635CSi and Sierra Cosworth RS 500 and, so, Nissan Motorsport, in 1990, began development of the all-wheel drive R32. The R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R ‘Godzilla’ as it would become known, was a motorsport monster that, despite numerous handicaps during its time in Group A touring car racing, destroyed race records and was just about uncatchable.
Godzilla arrives in Australia…
Locally, Mark Skaife debuted a 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R at Mallala which showed supreme pace in qualifying before a mechanical problem resulted in it retiring from the race. However, the car proved its worth when Jim Richards won at Oran Park later that year and development was pushed ahead to prepare two cars for and assault on the 1991 championship.
Arguably the most famous (or infamous) of all touring cars in Australia is Godzilla chassis number 2, pictured here, which won the 1991 Bathurst 1000. Steered by Mark Skaife and Jim Richards, the 2.6-litre turbocharged six-cylinder all-wheel drive GT-R took pole position at Bathurst and with it, a new lap record during qualifying. It went on to win the race in record time, but its ability to outpace all other cars on the track led to further minimum weight requirements set by CAMS on the GT-R and power decreased from more than 390kW to 350kW.
In 1992, despite being de-powered and having to carry extra weight, the GT-R still finished top of the podium and, so, in 1993 CAMS regulation changes made the car illegal to race, but by that stage chassis number two, the famous 1991 Bathurst 1000 winner, had already been retired. It went out while it was on top.
Godzilla heads to Thailand
Sold to a Bangkok-based businessman Prutiral Ratanakul Serireongrith, known simply as ‘Pharn’, the motorsport enthusiast was friends with then Nissan Motorsport manager, Fred Gibson, who had history with Pharn having already supplied him a race-prepped R32 from Japan.
Requesting a car to compete in regional events, Pharn was supplied with (chassis number 2) which was prepared by the Melbourne-based Gibson Motorsport (GMS) team and went on to be raced in Thailand and Malaysia. However, the car suffered front end damage when it crashed in Jahor, Malaysia and was subsequently sent back to Melbourne for GMS to rebuild the vehicle.
The rejuvenated Godzilla was then sent to its home country to compete in the Japanese Touring Car Championship at Mount Fuji, where it finished eighth after engine failure during practice and sundry other mechanical issues on race day. Following that race, the GT-R returned once more to Thailand where it competed in regional races before being put into storage – in Bangkok – for 15 years.
Godzilla is forgotten about
After sitting in isolation for almost 15 years, (chassis number 2) Godzilla was hunted down by Group A car collector, Robert Ingram and, after confirmation with Fred Gibson that it was indeed the 1991 Bathurst-winning vehicle, Ingram bought the vehicle and sent it back to GMS for a complete rebuild. It is quite conceivable that without the determination of Ingram to track down these race legends the 1991 Bathurst winner may have been lost forever.
Once the GT-R landed back in Melbourne, for the first time in 15 years, it was stripped down and returned to its period-correct 1991 red, white and blue livery. Gibson Motorsport commenced a complete rebuild of the suspension, driveline and engine from the ground up and it now races in the historic Group A racing category.