Radiation Reduction - 1994 Hasemi Sport Nissan Skyline GT-R JGTC
Godzilla goes on a diet
By the early 1990's, the Japanese motorsport scene was in a shambles. The country's motorsport industry had thrived on a seemingly endless tidal wave of economic prosperity, technological progress and unlimited budgets during the 1980s.
In the process, brands like Toyota, Honda and Nissan became forces to be reckoned with in sports prototype racing, rallying, touring cars and even Formula One. Ironically, just as these brands had started to establish their dominance, a shock to the system meant it was all over just as quickly as it had begun.
Selected examples of Japanese dominance.
Sadly, the immense economic meltdown which would come to be known as The Lost Decade would throw a sizable wrench in the gears. All of the sudden, Japan had done what everyone thought impossible: it reached a limit.
The economic woes coincided with a period of chaos on the regulatory side of things as well. Japan's biggest two categories, Group A touring cars and Group C prototypes, had both met their end at the end of the 1992 season.
A typical JTCC-race in the early 90s.
While spiraling costs and a weird F1-infused rule change annihilated Group C, the situation in the All-Japan Touring Car Championship was very different. The abandonment of the Group A ruleset in favor of more liberal regulations was already taking place in Europe and Australia, but for vastly different reasons.
In Europe, controversy over homologation and the manufacturers' desire to innovate resulted in the incredibly loose FIA Class 1 regulations for the DTM. In Australia, the need to run locally made V8 sedans unchallenged by foreign agents took precedence. In Japan, it was to prevent complete and utter boredom.
The GT-R devoured all.
While the Australian decision to move into what would eventually become V8 Supercars was undoubtedly motivated by the frightening pace of the 650 horsepower Nissan Skyline GT-R Group A, ironically no championship had it worse than Japan's own.
From its debut in the 1990 JTCC season, the car known Down Under as 'Godzilla' won every single race until the championship forcibly switched to FIA Class 2 (Super Touring) regulations in 1993. Just as the giant nuclear lizard it was named after, the car seemed especially good at destroying Japan itself.
The partial 1993 season was one of chaos.
From the ashes of the JSPC and the tattered remains of the JTCC came a brand new category: the All-Japan Grand Touring Championship, or JGTC. The name sounded great, but there was no real plan behind it just yet. Amidst the chaos of a cratered economy and major regulation changes, the Japanese Auto Federation hadn't formulated a new set of rules.
The result was an eclectic mix of all sorts of vehicles. While Nissan largely carried over their Group A cars with some power restrictions and extra aero bits, the rest of the field was made up of several different styles of touring car refugees taken from other series such as Japan Super Sports Sedans and Group N.
The series was contested over just four exhibition races, joining up with the American IMSA GT cars and European GT-racers at Fuji and Suzuka. Eventually the championship crown was taken by Masahiko Kageyama, predictably driving a Skyline. No team's championship was awarded, as the series was not official just yet.
Most of the 1994 field lined up for testing, Fuji Speedway.
For 1994, the JAF worked towards formalizing a clear set of regulations to govern the first full season of GT-racing in Japan. Luckily, development in Europe had shown a clear way forward. The rise of FIA GT and the formation of the BPR Global GT Series moved JAF to adopt a similar class structure, dividing the field into GT1 and GT2.
More care was taken to ensure parity between the competitors and to prevent the caustic dominance seen before, winners would be saddled with success ballast. The more you won, the heavier you car became, and the more you dropped back to let others get a crack at the podium. The approach was similar to the one in use in the DTM at the time.
The Hasemi Sport Skyline under construction.
The change of plans prompted a response from the only serious factory outfit active in JGTC: Nismo. The team had relied on developments of the Group A car in 1993, but the new rules suggested an alternative course should be considered as well.
To this end, it was decided to enter five Skylines for 1994, divided in pairs. Each pair would follow a vastly different design philosophy.
Calsonic Hoshino Racing, Johnson NISMO Racing and Racing Team Nakaharu would retain all wheel drive Group A-derivatives, but the Team Zexel and Hasemi Motor Sport entries would adopt a lightweight, rear wheel drive setup more catered to GT-racing.
The pushed back engine made the Hasemi car unique.
While the Zexel car had to be converted from Group A-spec, the Hasemi Skyline was a brand new car built from the ground up to comply with GT1-regulations. With his reputation as three time JTCC Champion, Masahiro Hasemi's team was sure to prepare the car to the highest standard.
The deletion of the all wheel drive-system gave Hasemi more freedom to adapt the car to the new formula. With the absence of front driveshafts, the RB26DETT 2.6L twin turbo straight six could be moved further back in the chassis for improved weight distribution.
A new 6-speed sequential gearbox by Xtrac was incorporated to direct drive to the rear axle only. Due to further power restrictions, the new transmission only had about 450 horsepower to contend with. Luckily, the weight reduction more than made up for the power loss.
In Group A-form, the GT-R had weighed as much as 1350 kg. The added wide fenders and big wings of the JGTC-versions had done little to change that. Hasemi's car was able to shed some 150 kg through the deletion of the AWD-system and the addition of carbon fiber bodypanels. Moreover, as a rear wheel drive car, the Skyline wasn't required to take 40 kg of extra ballast.
Despite a clearer ruleset, the field was still a bit of a mess in 1994. Aside from the five Nissans, the GT1 category was occupied by mostly foreign machinery: Team Taisan entered a Ferrari F40 GTE, with Acom Racing Team Nova fielding a Porsche 964 Carrera RSR, and Terai Engineering somehow managing to put a Lamborghini Countach QV on the grid.
Domestic competition for Hasemi Sport came in the form of the new Blitz Racing Toyota Supra, the heavily underdeveloped Shift Point Supra and the Mooncraft Nissan Silvia.
The biggest surprise however was the distinct low profile of a Group C prototype joining the fray. Team Taisan had somehow convinced JAF officials to accept their Porsche 962C as a GT1-machine, despite doing very little in the way of modifications.
The Team Taisan 962C competed directly with the Nissans.
The inaugural round of the first full All-Japan Grand Touring Championship took place at Fuji Speedway. Unsurprisingly, Team Taisan's Porsche took a comfortable pole, with .740 of a second over the Calsonic Skyline of Masahiko Kageyama.
Masahiro Hasemi had to make do with fourth place, right behind the other rear wheel drive GT-R of Toshio Suzuki. Both cars had however managed to split their AWD brothers, with a just few tenths between them. Sadly, Hasemi would fail to finish the race due to mechanical issues. Kageyama-san eventually came out on top.
The car didn't make it to the end at Fuji.
Luckily for the rest of the field, the Team Taisan 962C was absent for the second round at Sendai Hi-Land Raceway. With only a thousandth of a second to spare, Masahiro Hasemi was able to steal pole position from Masahiko Kageyama.
Hasemi managed to hold off Kageyama on race day, leading the Calsonic Skyline home to a maiden win for a rear wheel drive R32 GT-R. Third place went to the Team Taisan Ferrari F40 of Anthony Reid and Tetsuya Ota.
Hasemi and the RWD Skyline were able to come out on top at Sendai.
Between the second and third round of the JGTC, Masahiro Hasemi found the time to enter his Skyline in the inaugural Tokachi 24 Hour race at the new Tokachi International Speedway.
Hasemi-san partnered up with Hideo Fukuyama and Yukihiro Hane. The trio managed to win the event, setting a distance record that wouldn't be broken until 2003.
Hasemi Sport at the Tokachi 24 Hours.
Team Taisan brought the 962 back for round 3 at Fuji, with Anthony Reid and Masahiko Kondou immediately putting the car on pole. The F40 of Keiichi Suzuki and Tetsuya Ota made it a front row lockout, although the Ferrari was nearly two seconds slower.
The front row was occupied by exotic foreign invaders at Fuji.
Hasemi-san kept the rear wheel drive Skyline's honor high by setting a time good enough for third. Once again he was followed extremely closely by Masahiko Kageyama in the Calsonic machine, with just 0.012 of a second separating the two.
Hasemi battling the other RWD car of Toshio Suzuki, Fuji Speedway.
Hasemi couldn't keep pace with Kageyama on race day, with the blue Skyline ultimately splitting the Taisan cars in second place. Masahiro finished behind the F40 in an honorable fourth.
The race featured some notable new competition: ROSS Competition had the mad idea to dust off a Lancia Rally 037 Group B rally car, slap some big wheels on it, and take it GT-racing. Predictably, it wasn't a success, and the car was never seen again.
Another testament to the insanity of early JGTC: the ROSS Competition Lancia Rally 037.
At Sportsland Sugo, the paddock was in for a bit of a shock. Although the Team Taisan Porsche 962C had gone AWOL again, it's place had been taken by a works Toyota Team SARD Supra. The car used the lighter 4T-GTE 2.1L four cylinder turbo engine instead of the standard 2JZ-GTE used by Blitz, and had a lot more budget behind it.
The factory Supra shook up the order on its debut.
American All-Japan Formula 3000 racer Jeff Krosnoff duly qualified the Supra in second place, just behind the Team Taisan Ferrari F40 and followed by the Team Kunimitsu Porsche 964 Carrera RSR of Kunimitsu Takahashi and Keiichi Tsuchiya.
Masahiro Hasemi meanwhile was down to 9th, behind the other Carrera RSR of Acom Racing Team Noca's Mauro Martini. During the race he was able to climb up the order however, managing to clinch third place behind the Team Zexel Skyline and the winning Team Kunimitsu Porsche.
The Porsche 962C once again showed its face at the season finale at Mine's Circuit. However, for the first time the car would fail to capture pole. That honor went to Jeff Krosnoff in the lightning quick SARD Supra.
Team Taisan compensated by entering a second Ferrari F40 for Argentinian ex-F1 driver Oscar Larrauri and Testuya Ota, which placed second. It was by now becoming painfully obvious Nissan's glorified Group A racers were losing touch with the more specialized machinery in terms of raw speed.
The ageing Nissans were starting to falter.
Johnson NISMO Racing's Akira Iida outperformed himself by placing fourth, but the rest of the Skylines were huddled around the lower end of the top 10. Masahiro Hasemi was stuck down in 9th, the slowest of all.
Once again he made up for lackluster qualifying pace with experience and racecraft on the Sunday, climbing up to fifth place. The result was good enough to secure second in the driver's championship for Hasemi-san, while Hasemi Motor Sport finished second in the teams championship as well.
Despite the clear lack of pace at the end, both he and champion Masahiko Kageyama had built enough of a lead early in the season to fend off the challenge from Toyota and the superior European machinery.
Masahiro Hasemi chasing the Blitz Supra of future Mr. Le Mans Tom Kristensen at Mine's, 1994.
With the new R33-generation Skyline GT-R waiting in the wings, incorporating all the lessons learned with the RWD-layout, the Hasemi Sport R32's short career was almost at an end. However, its replacement wasn't ready in time for the first round of the 1995 season.
Godzilla's final battle was a glorious one. Hasemi-san put the car on a surprise pole for the opening round at Suzuka, and duly took the checkered flag from Toshio Suzuki and Akira IIda in the new R33 GT-R and Jeff Krosnoff in the Toyota Supra. The old dog had done it again.
The Hasemi Skyline went into the sunset with the fresh taste of champagne.
Masahiro Hasemi retained the car after its career in JGTC, and kept it in his private collection for three years. In 1998, a private collector managed to persuade him to pass the Skyline on.
While in the possession of this wealthy individual, the unique GT-R was regularly maintained and only taken out for short demo runs at selected events. However, after 22 long years, the current owner has decided to part with the car.
As such, the grandfather of modern Super GT is now up for grabs on Racecarsdirect.com . If you so wish, and your pockets are deep enough, you could own a one of a kind piece of genuine Japanese racing history. And if you happen to succeed, please take it out on track regularly. The car deserves no less.