The Nissan GT-R – a legend of the real and virtual racetrack

A legend of the real and virtual racetrack

Simply say the words ‘Nissan GT-R’ to any petrolhead of a certain age – by which we mean, old enough to have spent their teenage years tearing around the world’s racetracks in such iconic ‘90s and ‘00s videogames as Gran Turismo and Need For Speed – and you can expect them to become a little misty-eyed.

Such a response would be only natural – after all, the souped-up version of what was previously the epitome of the mundane Japanese saloon, the Nissan Skyline, has captured worldwide imaginations with the effectiveness of almost any Ferrari or Lamborghini.

But what earned the now-legendary three-letter nameplate its intimidating modern-day nickname ‘Godzilla’, aside from what many of us got up to with our PlayStations two decades ago? In short – no shortage of both brutal performance and a motorsport heritage that even the most obvious fire-breathing supercars would look upon with envy.

From being stomped on by Godzilla, to becoming ‘Godzilla’

For those curious, the GT-R’s present nickname of Godzilla can be traced back to the appearances of a much earlier performance iteration of the Skyline, the early ‘60s Skyline Sport, in the Godzilla movies of the period. However, it was a much later version of the car that truly earned that moniker, and to tell that particular story, we need to fast-forward more than three decades.

The third generation or R32 version of the Nissan Skyline was introduced in 1989, and marked the first appearance of a Skyline GT-R since the early 1970s. The great competition success of the earlier Skyline evidently ratcheted up expectations for the revived model, but it’s fair to say that those expectations were duly more than met.

Nissan had conceived its latest performance saloon with one eye firmly on homologation for the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA)’s Group A category. Sporting a four-wheel drive system inspired by the Porsche 959 – the most technologically advanced car of its era and the first supercar to boast four-wheel drive as standard – the R32 GT-R also had a 959-esque electro-hydraulic clutch to split torque between the front and rear. However, the setup was rear-biased to ensure maximum grip out of the corners.

Although the standard road-going R32 GT-R was nippy enough, producing about 320 horsepower, that was pretty much doubled in race trim. Nissan built 560 examples of its GT-R Nismo to homologate the car for Group A racing – but the real story was what happened next.

A tale of motorsport supremacy

Long before anyone had even picked up a PlayStation to control a virtual version of the car, the Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R was steamrollering its competition in touring car races across the globe. It was literally unbeatable in the All Japan Touring Car Championship, winning 29 out of 29 races over four seasons, practically rendering the JTCC a one-make series by 1993.

An incredible 94,500 fans turned up to watch the final race at Fuji that year, with the title going to a certain GT-R that would gain true iconic status – one bearing a blue Calsonic livery. As Evo magazine writer Richard Meaden commented on being given the opportunity to drive the Calsonic GT-R in 2013: “It’s hard to think of another racing car that possesses such deep-rooted cultural significance in its homeland, yet also has cult status on a truly global scale. I certainly doubt there’s a more iconic or significant competition car in Japan, nor a cooler or more intriguing machine for our generation of Western petrolheads.”

But the R32 GT-R was hardly a slouch in the touring car competitions of other territories, either. It racked up three titles in its first export market, Australia, from 1990 to ’92, in addition to winning the Bathurst 100 in ’91 and ’92, feats that led to the local press using the ‘Godzilla’ nickname. Meanwhile, in Europe, it was an R32 Skyline that emerged victorious in the ’91 Spa 24 Hours race.

Few three-letter combinations are so iconic

The GT-R story continued from there, of course. In 1995, the R32 was replaced by the R33, which featured mild upgrades, while the R34 model – which emerged in 1999 – was arguably the most iconic GT-R yet, instantly recognisable to a generation of videogame fans. The most recent, R35 model was the first not to feature the Skyline name at all, but has built on previous models’ formidable motorsport heritage, starring in such series as Super GT and the FIA GT Championship.

The current generation GT-R was introduced in 2007 and takes the form of a two-door ‘2+2’ coupe rather than a saloon, reflecting just how far the car has evolved from its Skyline origins. It also boasts the performance credentials that one would expect from this fabled nameplate, as those who take the wheel of this model as part of our Nissan GT-R R35 driving experience here at U Drive Cars will be especially well-placed to appreciate.

We really couldn’t be happier to add this astounding automobile to our fleet here at U Drive Cars. Its combination of 473bhp and 434 ft lbs from a V6, 3800cc engine – together with a six-speed, automatic, four-wheel drive transmission – makes it a fearsome machine to handle over six laps of our Heyford Park circuit in Oxfordshire. Even better news is that the experience can be yours for a lot less than you might expect.

Throw in such other perks of our R35 GT-R package as a printed A5 voucher and gift letter, a shared circuit tour and a commemorative certificate on completion, and it soon becomes clear that there could barely be any better way to take your experiences of this most celebrated of Japanese performance cars from the world of video games to the real world of rubber and tarmac. Why not book now to sample this new-for-2017 addition to our fleet of incredible cars?

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