Cast your minds back 15 years to a time when the BNR34 Skyline GT-R was ending its four years of dominance in Japanese motorsports. From Super Taikyu to JGTC, the GT-R flew the flag high and proud for Nissan, continuing what the legendary R32 and R33 had achieved up until 1999.
2002 was also a turning point for Nissan itself; R34 production ended in August, and the beginning of the racing season saw the iconic RB26DETT replaced by the VQ30DETT for its GT500 cars.
So what are two Nissan race cars doing in a Honda museum? This year, Twin Ring Motegi is celebrating its 20th anniversary, which means the Honda Collection Hall housed inside the facility has a reason to celebrate too. As part of those anniversary celebrations, the museum is taking a look back at some important times in Japanese motorsport with some special displays. This is one of them.
While it was strange seeing the GT-Rs in a Honda museum, it actually made total sense. I thought it was very cool of Honda to curate this exhibition.
To the contrary, I quite vividly recall hating on the VQ30DETT-powered Calsonic GT500 racer back in its era. It was the beginning of the end – no more RB26DETT. I can remember thinking how the hell Nissan could do this to GT-R enthusiasts!
But you have to move on, and in 2004 the GT-R was replaced by the Z33 chassis in GT500, followed by the Z34 before the torch was finally handed back to the GT-R with the R35.
2002 was a dismal season for the GT500 GT-Rs; teams struggled to get the most out of the new V6 engine and consequently the wins never came. It was only a matter of time though, and in 2003 the VQ30 shone as a competitive engine.
Despite its initial problems, there was no way any Skyline fan out there didn’t look at those pumped lines with lust. It was, after all, the most extreme version of a GT-R ever created, and in 2003 the shape got even more organic with a less angular feel to it.
The first JGTC race I ever covered was in 2003 at Motegi, so seeing this VQ30-powered Skyline in person brought back some special memories.
It’s also pretty wild to see how aero has evolved in the GT500 class. Back then, the cars still had a tangible similarity to the production machines we all loved, but nowadays the latest GT500 R35 looks pretty much nothing like its road-going counterpart.
Displayed next to the Calsonic machine was the Endless BNR34 N1-based racer from Super Taikyu. GT-Rs were used in the series years after the model went out of production, and this particular BNR34 is one of the most recognizable cars from that awesome period in JDM racing.
I remember loving how the C-West bumper changed the look of the car.
Plus, it ran on Enkei NT03RRs which were the wheels that Nissan itself used during the development of the R34 at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. Of course, as a Team Endless car there are 6-pot calipers and 2-piece rotors helping with the braking performance.
The cabins were pretty stripped down; no frills, just a bunch of gauges and basic switches controlling the electrics and auxiliary fans for the extra diff and gearbox coolers that these cars ran.
What makes these N1-based sorts of series so cool and fun to follow to this day is that aero is not a big component of the sport, so it’s all to do with suspension setup, mechanicals and driving skill.
Looking at the back of the Endless racer reminded me of the street-spec demo car that MCR built around the same time. In fact, I wonder if they still have it?
It was beyond cool seeing these two GT-R legends once again. It certainly made me think about how much things have changed in the last 15 years, but at the same time how little has also changed. I mean, the BNR34 still remains a sought after car and the GT-R is still battling it out in GT500. So despite all the changes, GT-R fans are still in a good place right now.
Dino Dalle Carbonare