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The only Australian GT-R to be written off

With the Repco Supercars Championship finale at Adelaide a little more than a week away, one memory from when touring cars acted as a support to Formula 1 is from 1990 and a severely damaged GT-R.

Gibson Motorsport had completed the best part of a season developing the new GT-R, which by this stage was far from the Godzilla it was to become. Reliability was key area to improve, but the potential was on display through Mark Skaife’s initial runs in the Australian Touring Car Championship.

Debuting at Mallala in the hands of Skaife, its sheer power and launch off tight corners provided an insight into what to expect when the GT-R was filly developed, though a hub failed when chasing leader Peter Brock.

While teammate Jim Richards punched above his weight in the fully tapped out HR31, Skaife continued to develop and refine the GT-R as he finished a best of sixth at Lakeside.

In turn, Richards took the wheel of the GT-R at Oran Park to seal the touring car round and the championship as the focus then turned to the endurance races.

Skipping Sandown, Gibson Motorsport went with the hope of impressing the visiting NISMO personnel at Bathurst where the GT-R was delayed by a transmission problem as Richards and Skaife finished 15 laps down in 18th.

Next on the Australian motorsport calendar was the Adelaide Grand Prix support races coined as the Ansett Air Freight Challenge.

Nissan went in with two GT-Rs for the first time, but one failed to make race day.

During qualifying both GT-Rs were fighting for pole position when Skaife careered out of control at Turn 10 entering the Brabham Straight rolling it into the wall and bouncing back on track with the front on fire.

“I was coming onto the back straight, it was a very fast section of road,” Skaife explained.

“The reason why I crashed is that Jimmy and I were fighting for pole position. He’d done a lap time and I was on my out lap to start my lap effectively. The car slid up onto the kerb, broke the bottom out of the wheel and turned straight over on its roof, firing into the fence very, very fast.

“It started to wear through the roof of the car onto my helmet and basically pushed the car down once it hit the fence. As hard as I pressed the brake pedal, it didn’t slow down! It certainly fired into the fence going hard on its roof, it spun back onto the track, it caught on fire and I couldn’t get out.

“A guy in a BMW called Joe Sommariva, Colin Bond and Peter Brock actually pulled up to get me out because at that stage the marshals were unable to open the door.

“So it was a pretty ugly foray into GT-R land.”

Team owner Fred Gibson added further detail to the story

“It was a brand new car,” Gibson remarked.

“It was a brand new GT-R. It was funny then, but if you go back and have a think about it, they both went out, Mark went out to do his lap.

“Richo radioed in, ‘FG, Skaifey’s had a crash’ and I said ‘Yeah, right’ because they were always up to these things ‘Oh yeah Richo, leave me alone’.

“He said ‘FG, he’s had a crash’. So all of a sudden, he’s come past and I’ve looked at the TV monitor and there it is, the car. He’s crashed it, it’s stuffed, I couldn’t believe it.

“We had this thing where if the drivers dinted the car they owed the mechanics a slab of beer and Richo reported back he owed a small bottle shop! That’s when I knew the extent of the damage.”

It was the only Australian built GT-R to be written off and therefore unaccounted for.