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Thursday, 02 February 2017 00:00

Nissan history: Cars of the rising sun

204historynissan

As Nissan ponders whether to replace the Altima with the GT-R under the Gen2 regulations, we delve into the Japanese manufacturer's history in Australian touring cars to see how history could repeat in issue #96.

Issue #96 is on sale now in stores with the digital edition available in the official V8X app (in the App Store and Google Play), online at DigitalEdition.V8XMagazine.com.au and in the Magzter app store.

CLICK HERE for more information on V8X Supercar Magazine issue #96.

There's no other way to cut it: Nissan's return to Australian touring-car racing has been tough going.

Four years in and it has two wins to show for its efforts, James Moffat's Winton glory in 2013 and a win for Michael Caruso at Hidden Valley in 2016, plus a smattering of podiums.

There have been solid showings, intermittent displays of serious pace and promise aplenty, but not the consistent form to break into the front ranks.

Fred Gibson knows all about Nissan, touring cars and the long, hard slog. He was part of its factory attack on Australian touring cars in the 1980s and '90s, first as a driver, then team owner.

He endured all sorts of ebbs and troughs before finally striking title gold in 1990. When he took Nissan to its maiden Bathurst win in 1991, it had been a decade of blood, sweat and tears to get there.

Nissan Motorsport's struggles in the modern era aren't a surprise to Gibson, who reckons his advice could have saved them a few headaches.

"The most disappointing thing about all that with me is when they decided to go into V8 Supercars and John Crennan was with the Kelly team," he says.

"I would have expected John to ring me up and say, 'FG, we've gone with Nissan, can you give me any hints?'

"I would have said, 'Don't rely on the Japanese'. First thing I'd say. We started buying parts from NISMO and I can tell you now a water pump for the GT-R wasn't special... $12,000 for a water pump. A gearbox, a Nissan dog-box... $65,000... and that's going back!

"We started the Hollinger box for the HR31 Skyline, we homologated it and that became the Holden Hollinger box as well. We paid for all that; we paid Hollinger to do that. That was all our own technology.

"I knew buying parts from NISMO would be an absolute wank and that's what they've found. Getting NISMO to do engines for them... what a waste of time, they should be doing it in-house. We found that out very early.

"Lovely people at Nissan, lovely people the Japanese, but they're too slow to react in motorsport. That's what got them with the engine program; it took ages to get it done and they could have done it all here. We've got some smart people in Australia, very smart people."

Few would argue that. When the Gibson Motorsport Skyline R32 GT-Rs were tearing new ones into their Australian touring-car rivals in the early 1990s, they were the baddest GT-Rs on the planet. And head office in Japan knew it.

"We were invited to go to Fuji to race our GT-R," says Gibson.

"Then one morning I got a call at work from Kunihiko Kakimoto, he was the general manager of Nissan Motorsport Japan's engineering department.

"'Fred-san, I hear you are coming to Fuji'. And I said, 'Yes, we've been invited, yes, we are thinking maybe'. The words he said, and I can still remember it, 'Not a good idea, not a good idea'. I said, 'Why, Kakimoto-san?' and he said, 'You do Australia and New Zealand, we do Japanese and European circuits'.

"They didn't want us to be there because they knew our car would blow the socks off their GT-R."

That, however, was the high-water point of Nissan Motorsport's last touring-car tilt.

CLICK HERE to purchase the print edition of issue #96 to read the full feature as we wind back the clock and re-examine the journey that took them here.

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Clipsal 500 Adelaide

2-5 March

Tyrepower Tasmania Super Sprint 

7-9 April

WD-40 Phillip Island 500  21-23 April 

Perth Super Sprint  

5-7 May 

Winton Super Sprint 

19-21 May 

CrownBet Triple Crown Darwin

16-18 June

Watpac Townsville 400

7-9 July

Coates Hire Ipswich Super Sprint

28-30 July

Red Rooster Sydney Super Sprint

18-20 August

Wilson Security Sandown 500

15-17 September

Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000

5-8 October

Vodafone Gold Coast 600

20-22 October

ITM Auckland Super Sprint

3-5 November

Coates Hire Newcastle 500

24-26 November

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Pos

 Driver

 Points

 1

 Jamie Whincup

2850

 2

 Scott McLaughlin

2820

 3

 Fabian Coulthard

2674

 4

 Chaz Mostert

2586

 5

 Shane van Gisbergen

2574

 6

 Craig Lowndes

2160

 7

 Cameron Waters

2071

 8

 Mark Winterbottom

2058

 9

 Garth Tander

2028

 10

David Reynolds 

1956

 Full points table