The first clip is from the 1986 year, at a race at Fuji, and it’s such a wonderful sight to see the variety of cars on the grid. Jag XJ-S, Volvo 240T, Nissan Skyline RS Turbo, Mitsubishi Starion, Rover Vitesse, BMW 635CSi, Honda Civic, Toyota Levin and more. The Mobil liveried sedan that dices with the Jags the whole race is a Holden Commodore SS by the way, an Aussie muscle car with a 4.9L pushrod V8 with a long history in Australia. This is the year that the DR30 Skyline would win the All-Japan championship, but with so many hot guest cars from the European and Australian championships the 4cyl turbo Skyline is a little bit lost.
During that year, the Volvo 240T would be quite a successful race car, winning the Australian Championship. It was a slightly unliklely race car, but Volvo was one of the first to support Group A a couple of years before, and so by the time 1986 rolled around, the 240T was already developed into a very powerful turbo racecar, if not such a great-handling one, with the Australian drivers Bowe and Francevic complaining that its narrow and upright stance made it very tricky to drive. Perhaps an even more unlikely race car was the luxocruiser XJ-S Jag, but in 1985 and 1986 the TWR Jags were quite a dominant force in Group A racing wherever they ran, winning the Australian Bathurst 1000 enduro in 1985, the 5.3L V12 mill providing no shortage of grunt. The BMW 635CSi was a successful car in the 1983 and 1984 seasons, but by the time 1986 rolled around, its sweet spinning 280PS 3.5l six cylinder mill was already a little outclassed. It still could put up a fight on tighter circuits, but BMW glory would have to wait until the M3 was released in 1987 and you can see in the vid above that it was a little past its prime.
For the next clip we move onto 1988, a year when a Ford Sierra won the All-Japan series. A new player in Group A, the Sierra was a slightly skittish but extremely powerful contender that was successful straight away. The 350ps DR30 Skyline RS had been replaced by the 450hp R31 Skyline GTS-R by this stage, a far superior racecar, but the Sierras are dominant as you will see.
By 1988 the BMW M3 had debuted and had already won a few championships around the world (Europe 87 and 88 and Australia in 87) but on the long straights of Fuji it’s a little outgrunted by the 500hp Sierras. By this point in time, Group A had lost a lot of the variety that had made it so interesting in the early to mid 80s. Various makes would become the dominant force and hence you would see the grids being dominated by one or another model from year to year.
Speaking of dominant, as we move onto 1990, it should be fairly clear by the first corner that a certain Nissan product is going to win the race Although I’m a little perplexed as to why it got such a huge head start…
The GT-R won the 1990 All-Japan championship, winning every race. A car that you don’t see in these vids is the Toyota Supra. One of the great almost-cars in Group A, it debuted with a 3.0L 24V DOHC single turbo which could crank almost 600ps in qualifying trim. However its 3.0L capacity meant that it was saddled with the heavy weight penalties of the over-5L class, and hence it was never really competitive. Toyota eventually put out a 2.5L twin turbo version in 1990 that did enjoy a lesser weight class but by then Group A had been turned into a one make series for the GT-R.
The Supra would occasionally come close, but well, that was an era when the R32 GT-R won every race in the All-Japan series for 4yrs.
Lastly, here’s a great in-car vid of the Sierra RS500 around Bathurst.