Sign Up

Our Privacy Policy identifies how we handle personal information in accordance with the Privacy Act. Read it prior to submitting your information.

By clicking “Register” you agree to our Terms Of Use and Privacy Policy.

Nissan’s GT-R lead in – The unheralded HR31 GTS-R

In honour of the HR31 GTS-R’s European debut at Donington Park 35 years ago, The Repco Garage will reflect on the initial challenge and eventual success of a precursor to one of touring car racing’s most dominant nameplates.

Needing to replace the elderly DR30 Skyline RS used in Japan since 1985 and debuting a year later in Australia, it nearly snatched the title on the two occasions it contested through former rally ace George Fury in its maiden season, then young gun Glenn Seton in 1987.

Both lost out in close circumstances and in Seton’s case the final round in a battle against New Zealand legend Jim Richards in his BMW M3, but soon joined Nissan’s operation in a couple of seasons time.

The HR31 GTS-R the first global appearance of the HR31 GTS-R was at the final round of the inaugural World Touring Car Championship held at Fuji where the factory NISMO Ricoh entry finished 15th piloted by Swede Anders Olofsson and Kazuyoshi Hoshino.

A round of the Japanese Touring Car Championship followed to complete the season where Seton joined Olofsson to finish fourth at Suzuka.

However, there was much development to do if the HR31 GTS-R was to compete against Ford’s Sierra Cosworth RS500 or the BMW M3.

Expanding its touring car program into Europe led by Howard Marsden was to aid in the development of Nissan’s new weapon in addition to continuing Japanese and Australian efforts.

A great start in Japan with victory at Suzuka didn’t translate to results in Europe as a new NISMO built HR31 GTS-R was to be driven by Aussie Allan Grice and Win Percy starting at Donington Park where brake problems ended a promising debut.

Nissan returned for the Spa 24 Hour where it proved fairly competitive as Grice, Percy and Olofsson finished sixth outright in addition to fourth in class.

A 19th at Nurburgring followed by a crash at Zolder in treacherous conditions for Grice, a gearbox failure at Silverstone and 11th at Nogaro’s season finale ended the NISMO team’s European touring car travels as the series stopped at the end of the season amid the failure of Bernie Ecclestone’s Procar format in 1989.

As for the Australian campaign, 1988 was a failure as delays left Fred Gibson’s squad debuting in Round 5 at Adelaide International Raceway and struggling leading into Bathurst, now behind the eight ball in development compared to the overseas programs.

It wasn’t until 1990 when Richards steered his HR31 GTS-R to two round victories in the first seven events before switching to the Mark Skaife-developed GT-R for the season finale at Oran Park to seal the title with victory.

An unsung hero and true underdog against Australia’s world leading Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworths, the HR31 GTS-R played a key role in the GT-R’s development placing it as one of touring car racing’s important models.