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Celebrating 30 years since Nissan’s touring car domination

A reunion of Gibson Motorsport team members marked 30 years since the domination of the squad’s Nissan GT-Rs and the conclusion of the Japanese marque’s first touring car era in Australia.

Starting in 1985, Fred Gibson took the reins of Nissan’s touring car program following success in rallying during the 1970s before touring car racing followed during the early-1980s.

Beginning with the DR30 Skyline in 1986 (homologation delays ensured the model failed to appear in 1985), Gibson Motorsport began its Australian Touring Car Championship campaign as runner up with George Fury, but it wasn’t until the introduction of the GT-R until the team achieved great success.

Debuting at Mallala in 1990, the GT-R dominated the sport by winning the ATCC and Bathurst 1000 in the final two years of Group A in 1991-1992.

To celebrate this achievement a reunion was organised as more than 200 former employees and close associates of the Gibson family attended the event hosted by Shannons in Melbourne.

A collection of Nissan touring cars representing all eras including Group C Bluebird and EXA to the various Skyline models used during the Group A era provided memories of a successful period for the Japanese marque.

“It was a team and a team effort,” described Gibson. “No one stands out and we’re all as equal. All going to do our job and do our job well. And I think that bonded together very well and the team was very successful.”

Winner of the 1992 ATCC and twin Bathurst victories alongside Jim Richards, Mark Skaife explained the mystique the GT-R still holds in Australian motorsport circles.

“The famous nature of what those cars mean to Australian motorsport, but especially to our group, is extraordinary and for Fred in particular,” he emphasised. “The cars are a very special part of the history of this sport, especially Nissan’s involvement in the game.”

Richards added: “You had guys who could do every job you needed to do. Fred and the boys reengineered the GT-R to become ‘Australianised’ you might say. So it was a lot stronger and probably a quicker car than what the Japanese had.”

Alan Heaphy returned to Australia to provide a hand in Gibson Motorsport’s GT-R era after leading Nissan’s Group C sportscar campaign in Europe and reflects on those times fondly.

“In terms of performance Fred was prepared to throw at it whatever he could get to achieve that financially and time,” Heaphy recalled. “By far he was the leading person as far as the level of competitiveness. But the level of standard went as far as presenting a race team that reflects back into the people as well.”

Managing Director of Nissan Motor Company Australia at the time, Leon Daphne believes the success on track provided a major shift for the brand in Australia at an interesting period for it in this country.

“So the fact that the GTRs were run so professionally by Fred through the Touring Car rounds all around Australia and then the big Bathurst wins were really a lift of the company overall,” Daphne concluded.

When the ATCC regulations shifted to V8 Holden vs Ford formula for 1993, the Nissan and Gibson Motorsport relationship ended as the team achieved title success for the Lion in 1994 through Skaife.

However, Skaife enjoyed one last drive in a Nissan when he contested the FIA World Touring Car Challenge at Monza driving a Nissan Primera super tourer in 1993.