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Godzilla!

Written by Mick Bolognese | April 22nd, 2015

I left some of you with a cliffhanger last month…

I say ‘some’ because ‘Godzilla’ quickly gained legendary status among Australian motorsport fans, so if you  remember its dramatic arrival on the scene in 1990 or grew up with parents whose bedtime stories featured racing cars, you’ll probably be more familiar with the story than I am.

For the rest of you though, this is the setting: the year was 1990 and Ford’s turbocharged 4-cylinder Sierra RS500 had been the dominant force in recent Australian Touring Car Championships, finishing first and second in the last two seasons. But while the Sierra had been practically unchallenged in 1988, taking out every single round of the championship, things were a little different in 1989, with an HR31 Nissan Skyline managing to cross the finish first in the second-last race of the year. It was enough to give Nissan teams some confidence. By the end of the season, Nissan had announced a new evolution of the Skyline, the R32 GT-R. Australia’s Wheelsmagazine’s July 1989 front cover sounded an ominous warning to Ford fans:

Nissan’s new Godzilla on wheels aims to slay the Sierra.
               And it’s here soon.

Wheels had simply taken further an idea that was already around in Japan – where the new Skyline was called an obakemono, a monster. But the nickname ‘Godzilla’ was the one that stuck around the world. Why? Because Wheels were right. When it made its debut, in round six of the 1990 Australian Touring Car Championship at Mallala, only a broken hub stopped a young Mark Skaife from storming to victory in ‘Godzilla’. New Zealander Jim Richards, who had stuck with his HR31 Skyline until then, drove an R32 GT-R in the last two races of the season to win his third title.

The following two seasons belonged entirely to ‘Godzilla’. Richards backed up his championship win in 1991 with Mark Skaife a close second, and in 1992 Skaife recorded the first of his five titles. The pair also won at Bathurst (arguably the biggest event in the Australian racing calendar) in 1991 and 1992. Such dominance from a foreign manufacturer did not sit well with many fans of the sport, and ‘Godzilla’, with its two turbos and 2.6L V6 engine, was effectively pushed out of the Australian Touring Car Championship by regulation changes for the 1993 season.

Despite its controversial exit from the major Australian motorsport scene, the Nissan R-32 GTR has remained a familiar sight on Australian tracks and roads. Known around the world as a giant-slayer in the early 1990s (and still often found in competition, particularly in Japan), its fame endured thanks also to numerous appearances on screen. Cult classics like The Fast & the Furious, Initial D and the Gran Turismo videogame series have kept demand for GT-Rs high. So even though relatively few were sold in Australia, many have arrived as later imports. And if you’re particularly attached to the ‘Godzilla’ of the 1990s, you might be pleased to know that a new Skyline GT-R is in development. Bathurst could see a return of its prodigal son. Yatta!

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