V8 Supercars driver Rick Kelly recently had the chance to step back in time and sample one of Nissan’s original Aussie Godzillas.
I learnt two things last when when I drove the original Godzilla: Old school Nissan GT-Rs are incredibly fast, and very expensive.
I was lucky enough to be handed the keys to Terry Lawlor’s GIO sponsored Nissan GT-R for some hot laps of Sydney Motorsport Park, and I have to say it was a big buzz. I grew up watching these Group A cars, particularly when Jim Richards and Mark Skaife won Bathurst in 1991 and ’92.
It was an iconic car in a significant era of Australian motorsport.
Initially on the day I didn’t think too much about it; I just got to the track, 20 minutes before the session started. I jumped in my race gear, and had a go.
I didn’t know what to expect from the car, and I was pretty pleasantly surprised by its capabilities, braking, cornering and acceleration, which were all very very impressive.
After doing a three-lap run, I headed back to the pits where I had a chat to the crew running the car. I discovered that this particular GT-R won the 1991 Sandown 500 by an incredible six laps, and started on the front row at Bathurst the same year before finishing third in the race.
The thing is, I didn’t realise how much it was worth… Back in the beginning the car was sold from Gibson Motorsport to the GIO team for about a million dollars, and it certainly hasn’t depreciated in value since then!
After I did the second run I found out a bit more about it, and I didn’t want to get back in the car after learning of its full history and its value. This is one beast you wouldn’t want to bend!
The one thing I can say that after driving it, it’s certainly shows just how far ahead of its time it was. It really didn’t feel like a 23-year-old racecar. It still laid down pretty competitive lap times, even though the tyres were three race meetings old.
When you compare it to the touring cars of the early 2000s, when I first came onto the scene, it was far and away more advanced than those things, which had an additional 10 years of development. When you consider how quickly motorsport advances, if you threw some new tyres at it, put some modern day thinking into the car’s set-up, it would probably still be a competitive package today.
All of the construction of the car was first rate by modern standards, but then you look at the paint job, which was a throwback to another era. All of the logos on the car are the original hand painted item.
This car deserves to be sitting in a museum, but credit to Terry for using it for what it was designed to do, and continuing to be very successful in historic competition with it.
I have been lucky to drive the current GT-R GT3 for the factory Nismo team at Bathurst last year, which was an incredible opportunity. I get to drive our Jack Daniel’s Nissan Altima V8 Supercar on a weekly basis, and I have to say that the GIO car that I drove, even though it was 23-years-old, it sort of sits between those two cars.
The GT3 version of today has a lot of aero, it’s very smooth, it’s got paddle gear shift, and all of the niceties you would expect. The V8 Supercar is still a rear-wheel-drive car with no driver aids whatsoever.
The GT-R that I drove at Eastern Creek is all-wheel-drive, but it’s pretty back to basics for a racecar. There’s not much in the way of aero downforce, so the car moves around a lot and handles a little bit more like a Supercar than the GT3.
It has around 600 horsepower, so it’s definitely no slouch in a straight line, but you do have to finesse the older style H-Pattern gearbox, which was actually quite enjoyable.
You can catch Godzilla and a host of other historic touring cars, sportscars, and F1 machinery at the Sydney Retro Speedfest at Sydney Motorsport Park on June 6 to 7.