The most difficult part has been the Japanese races. Bridgestone’s database only goes back to 1981, and covers only a couple races, and the series championship points. JAF’s database is just too big. JAF is not Japanese for AAA. JAF is what you get if you combined Indy Car, Cart, American Lemans, SCCA, NASA, Rally America, NHRA, and AAA. It sanctions races, issues racing licenses, and also offers roadside assistance. JAF’s records start with 1966, has results for over 40,000 races, and is not searchable. I only scratched the surface before I discovered that the translation programs can not handle first and last names.
One name that stuck out “Shigeki Asaoka”, one of the top four drivers from 1960 through 1980, and an Isuzu factory team driver. (There is a webpage showing a Tamiya invitational RC race with Asaoka and the other three top Japanese drivers.)
When the Japanese Isuzu enthusiasts talk about racing in the 60’s, the Skyline and the Bellett are always presented as oil and water, or cobra and mongoose. Carry the Godzilla nickname back to the Hakosuka, then the Bellett is Ghidorah (and the Rotary Coupe is King Kong). Looking at the race results, for 1966 through 1968, the Fairlady and Toyota 2000 GT seem to win everything they were entered in. Next in the pecking order, Belletts and Skylines took even shares of the top positions. And there were a lot of races won by Toyota 1600GT or Corona, Honda S800, and Toyota S800. The Bluebird seems to be one of the only cars rarely at the top of the finish list. But looking more closely, Skylines outnumbered everything else in entries at least two to one. There are many of races with a dozen or more Belletts mixed evenly through a field of 30+ cars, but more often, there were only 1-4 Belletts participating in any single race. To contrast, in the majority of events that Skylines participated in, there are 1-2 dozen Skylines. Nissan has 2-3 times the number of Belletts racing, and is taking about the same number of wins. The main contribution to racing by the Hakosuka seems to be the realization that if Nissan had 2-3 times more cars entered than everyone else, half might not finish well or at all, but they could count on one or two top finishes from the rest.
Adding a little historical context, the Belletts and Toyotas were all running 1.5 and 1.6 liter, four cylinder, SOHC engines, the Belletts being rated at 90 HP. The Fairladies and Skylines were all running 2.0 liter, six cylinder, SOHC engines, rated at 100 HP. With ten HP and two extra cylinders, the Fairlady walked away with the win, but the Skyline kept with the middle of the pack.
Around 1968, everyone decided to add another camshaft and raise the power level. Isuzu rolled out the Bellett GTX cars (light blue Coupes and Fast Backs with the big side scoops behind the doors) with a 1.6 liter, four cylinder, DOHC, eight valve engine, with 130 HP, and it took about to the finish of the first lap to decide this would be the new GTR. Nissan responded by adding not only a camshaft, but also doubling the number of valves, for a 2.0 liter, six cylinder, 24 valve engine, rated at 160 HP. Now the Fairladies and Skylines had the advantage of two more cylinders AND 12 extra valves. From 1969 through 1971, the Skyline moved up from lower middle to upper middle, but more conspicuously, in 1970, the Fairlady and Skyline ceased to meet in competition. Belletts continued to race against Fairladies (and Zs) and Belletts raced against Skylines in separate races, but the lack of mixture of Fairladies and Skylines in more than a handful of events indicates a decision by Nissan to not allow one of their products to beat the other. This decision by Nissan probably did more to create the legend of the Skyline than anything else.
Hakosuka enthusiasts are outspoken about 33 victories in two years and 50 victories in three years. It would be nice to know the source for this factoid in “rumor-pedia”, because the JAF results don’t seem to add up to those numbers (unless you count one marque races). But, ignoring that, there were more than 600 circuit race results per year in Japan by 1971, and 50 divided by 1800 is not exactly a triumphant average. Overall, for the entire set of years, no one dominated any more than anyone else. Mazda, Toyota, Isuzu, and Nissan all had their share of wins. And the top finishers were Fairlady, along with the newly introduced Rotary Coupe which was already taking away from the Skyline in 1970, when the Skyline was supposed to be on its rising arc, and by 1974 or 1975, Skylines are no longer seen entered in races.
(Keep in mind that there is no index for this data, and I am basically trudging through race results, one CGI file at a time, but running sequentially through a system that assigns a random six digit number to these documents grouped only by year. There are no class results for circuit races, only overall results. The only thing I am sure of is the fact that I am missing a lot. There are numerous misspellings in the results, and vehicles are inconsistently listed sometimes only by name, model code, or manufacturer. I should also mention that the JAF race results are in Japanese, and I do not read Japanese, I recognize some familiar words like manufacturer and car model names.)
(I should also point out that I make no claim to be an expert on the subject of Japanese racing, only an observer of the race results, and am drawing conclusions based on the trends in those racing results, and attempting to determine what rule or mechanical changes have been made to cause these trends.)
This is from JAF and for circuit racing only.
Note that some of the races from 1969 through 1973 in which Belletts were entered they raced in an open class against exotics, prototypes, Lemans style cars, and sports racers like Porsche 908 and 910, and even the Isuzu R6 and R7 cars discussed below.
1966 – 88 race results with Belletts, 31 -1st Place, 26 – 2nd Place, 21 – 3rd Place.
1967 – 93 race results with Belletts, 18 - 1st Place, 17 – 2nd Place, 18 – 3rd Place.
1968 – 95 race results with Belletts, 10 - 1st Place, 12 - 2nd Place, 15 – 3rd Place.
1969 – 56 race results with Belletts, 10 - 1st Place, 10 – 2nd Place, 10 - 3rd Place.
1970 – 62 race results with Belletts, 0 - 1st Place, 8 – 2nd Place, 3 -3 3rd Place.
1971 – 93 race results with Belletts, 7 - 1st Place, 8 – 2nd Place, 4 – 3rd Place..
1972 – 55 race results with Belletts, 2 - 1st Place, 1 - 2nd Place, 1 - 3rd Place.
1973 – 57 race results with Belletts, 2 - 1st Place, 3 - 2nd Place, 3 – 3rd Place.
1974 – 21 race results with Belletts, 2 - 1st Place, 2 - 2nd Place, 2 – 3rd Place.
1975 – 37 race results with Belletts, 4 - 1st Place, 2 - 2nd Place, 2 – 3rd Place.
1976 – 11 race results with Belletts, 1 - 1st Place, 1 - 2nd Place, 1 – 3rd Place.
1977 – 2 race results with Belletts, 1 - 1st Place, 1 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
1978 – 1 race result with Bellett, 5th Place Finsih.
(These listings for 1974 -1978 continue to indicate GTR and 1600GT so these are not “Bellett Gemini” results.)
Many of these races had as many as 12 or 14 Belletts, often six or more, and Isuzu’s strategy appears clear, they had formed a “flying circus” of factory supported independent racing teams, who would show up en mass to do battle with the horde of Nissans.
1984 saw a return of the Bellett in historic races:
1984 - 4 race results with Belletts, 0 - 1st Place, 1 - 2nd Place, 1 – 3rd Place.
1985 - 4 race results with Belletts, 1 - 1st Place, 1 - 2nd Place, 1 – 3rd Place.
1986 - 9 race results with Belletts, 3 - 1st Place, 1 – 2nd Place, 2 – 3rd Place.
1987 - 5 race results with Belletts, 0 - 1st Place , 2 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
1988 - 6 race results with Belletts, 0 - 1st Place , 3 - 2nd Place, 0 3rd Place.
1989 - 10 race results with Belletts, 0 - 1st Place, 1 - 2nd Place, 1 – 3rd Place.
1990 – 13 race results with Belletts, 2 - 1st Place, 0 - 2nd Place, 4 – 3rd Place.
1991 - 13 race results with Belletts, 3 - 1st Place, 2 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
1992 - 21 race results with Belletts, 4 - 1st Place, 1 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
1993 - 18 race results with Belletts, 1 - 1st Place, 4 - 2nd Place, 1 – 3rd Place.
For whatever reason, the JAF Rally records start with 1979. The Bellett was rallied in Europe, it makes sense it would have been rallied in Japan, but I know of no way of finding that information.
The JAF records don’t show any 117 Coupes entered in competition during its years of manufacture, and list it only in historic races beginning in 1986. The funny part is that the 117 seems to excel in racing, besting Skyline GTRs, Fairlady 2000s, 240Zs, and Rotary Coupes.
1986 – 4 race results with 117 Coupes. , 0 - 1st Place, 0 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
1987 – 6 race results with 117 Coupes, 0 - 1st Place, 1 - 2nd Place, 2 – 3rd Place.
1988 – 3 race results with 117 Coupes, 0 - 1st Place, 1 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
1989 – 7 race results with 117 Coupes, 0 - 1st Place, 0 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
1990 – 13 race results with 117 Coupes, 0 - 1st Place, 1 - 2nd Place, 2 – 3rd Place.
1991 – 4 race results with 117 Coupes, 0 - 1st Place, 0 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
1992 – 5 race results with 117 Coupes, 0 - 1st Place, 2 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
1993 – 7 race results with 117 Coupes, 1 - 1st Place, 0 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
What about purpose built race cars?
There are a group of race results for 1967, indicating a “Isuzu Bellett 1.6 (F2). These were open wheel race cars similar in appearance to Lola T60, T61, T62, T100, and T110. They apparently did not do too bad, taking 3rd and 5th at Nippon GP Support Race, Fuji and 1st at VIII Clubman Race Meeting, Fuji.
For 1975, there is a listing of a “Brabham BT30 - Isuzu PR91W”, with a 10th place finish at the 1975 II Fuji Formula Champion Race.
Grand Prix or Prototype
Bellett R6 Coupe and Spider:
The Japanese tell a story that a group of Isuzu factory workers stayed after hours and over weekends to build a grand prix style race car, using a rear mounted 1.6 liter, DOHC, 8 valve engine (From the Bellett GTR), and the frame and body were built from scratch. Two or three more cars followed, with an open top “Spider” and a closed top “Coupe”. These were raced from 1970 through 1972, in the Japanese Grand Prix or Group C races against the likes of Toyota 7, McLaren M6B and M12, Porsche 906, 908, and 910, Chevron B19 and B21, Lola T100, T160, T212, and T290, Nissan R380-III, Ferrari 512S, Lotus 47, etc.
JAF race results:
1970 – 6 races results with R6s, 2 - 1st Place, 4 - 2nd Place, 2 – 3rd Place.
1971 – 6 race results with R6s, 0 - 1st Place, 0 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
1972 – 9 race results with R6s, 0 - 1st Place, 0 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
Bridgestone’s series points results for Group C Driver’s Champions (record begins with 1971):
1971 – 8th
For the majority of its life span, at least one R6 finished fourth or better in the majority of races they were entered in.
At least one of these cars was acquired by Kataoka Racing Service (KRS), and may have been campaigned as a “KRS Special” from 1973 through 1976. There are three entries for this vehicle in 1976, but no wins. KRS went on as a factory Isuzu supported race team with all three generations of Gemini, and currently hosts the KRS Battle Royal series, at which JNC writers are surprised to see Geminis and Belletts.
There is almost no information on these cars, aside from a single reference describing it as a “Lola T70 Mk.3B Chevrolet” and another stating the engine was a 5 liter V8. They were entered in some of the same races along side the R6 cars from 1969 through 1972. Weight restrictions seem to keep them from being very successful against the smaller displacement cars.
JAF race results:
1969 – 1 race result with R7s, 6th Place Finish
1970 – 1 race result with R7s, 8th Place Finish.
1971 – 6 race results with R7s, 0 - 1st Place, 0 - 2nd Place, 1 – 3rd Place.
1972 – 5 race results with R7s, 0 - 1st Place, 0 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
Isuzu Special 2000 or Spider 2000:
This appears to be a second generation of the R6, with a 2.0 liter, DOHC, 8 valve engine (from the 117 Coupe). These were raced in 1973, in the Japanese Grand Prix races.
JAF race results:
1973 – 16 race results with Special 2000s, 1 - 1st Place, 2 - 2nd Place, 2 – 3rd Place.
First Generation Gemini (1975-1985):
Back to Australia, Bathurst, and the semiannual reenactment of “Death Race 2000”. Some additional results from Sandown. This time using the First Generation Gemini, built during Isuzu’s capacity as “Stooge for GM”. The sister car was the Kadett GTE.
1979 Hardie-Ferodo 1000, Bathurst, Class D: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 2 DNFs.
1980 Hardie-Ferodo 1000, Bathurst, Class D: 1st, 5th, 8th, 9th, and 3 DNFs.
1981 James Hardie 1000, Bathurst, Class D: 3rd, and 3 DNFs.
1982 Castrol 400, Sandown, Victoria, Group A: 1st, 3rd, 5th, 6th, and one DNF
1982 James Hardie 1000, Bathurst, Class D, One DNF.
1983 Castrol 400, Sandown, Victoria, under 3000 cc: 4th, 5th.
1983 James Hardie 1000, Bathurst, NSW, Class B: conflicting results, either 4th or 5th.
1985 Castrol 500, Sandown, Victoria, Class C: 3rd.
1981 Australian Touring Car Championship, Isuzu ranked, incomplete information as to position.
1982 Australian Endurance Championship of Makes (5 Races): Isuzu is 6th in points with two wins.
Japanese Circuit Racing
Possibly slow to start with the new model, but by 1981, Isuzu was back to being well represented on the Japanese circuits.
JAF open competition circuit race results, not divided by class:
1975 – 1 race result with Geminis, 18th Place Finsih.
1976 – 0 race results with Geminis.
1977 – 2 race results with Geminis, 0 - 1st Place, 0 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
1978 – 4 race results with Geminis, 0 - 1st Place, 0 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place..
1979 – 2 race results with Geminis, 0 - 1st Place, 0 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
1980 – 7 race results with Geminis, 3 - 1st Place, 0 - 2nd Place, 1 – 3rd Place.
1981 – 21 race results with Geminis, 7 - 1st Place, 4 - 2nd Place, 3 – 3rd Place.
1982 – 21 race results with Geminis, 8 - 1st Place, 8 - 2nd Place, 3 – 3rd Place.
1983 – 20 race results with Geminis, 2 - 1st Place, 5 - 2nd Place, 2 – 3rd Place.
1984 – 15 race results with Geminis, 1 - 1st Place, 4 - 2nd Place, 4 – 3rd Place.
1985 – 4 race results with Geminis, 0 - 1st Place, 0 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
(Cars listed simply as “Gemini” without any model or other notation, after 1986, are assumed to be First Generation. Some of these may be Second Generation cars.)
1986 – 8 race results with Geminis, 1 - 1st Place, 1 - 2nd Place, 1 – 3rd Place.
1987 – 4 race results with Geminis, 0 - 1st Place, 0 - 2nd Place, 1 – 3rd Place.
1988 – 5 race results with Geminis, 3 - 1st Place, 0 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
1989 – 0 race results with Geminis (First Generation).
From 1980 to 1984, Isuzu was back to using the “flying circus” strategy, with a half dozen Geminis from factory supported independent racing teams attending many races. JAF begins listing some team names, like Valvoline, Autobahn, Corsa, Santana, Azul, RRC-Aspec, TBS, DSI, Excell, Studiodome, and a name that would become legendary, “Orient Speed”, who would go on to manufacture racing and accessory parts for Isuzu to be offered as factory option parts for Second and Third Generation Geminis.
One Marque Races:
Gemini Castor Cup Races
Nissan ran one marque races from 1968 through 1973. Toyota, Honda, and Mazda followed suit beginning around 1978, to provide a place for their Starlets, Civics, and Familias to race without Sunnys. Sunny dominated the low displacement class and Savana dominated the high displacement class. Isuzu followed the pattern with the “Gemini Castor Cup Race” series, beginning in 1979.
These races were held sequentially over a number of years, with two or three sets of race results from the first three events, and as many as ten sets of race results by the 1982 events. So this was an event involving numerous races within each event. In addition to the sequentially numbered events, there were also year end events which were not counted in the sequence. The JAF results are not complete and do not list all events or the sequence number for some events, but there were at least 45 numbered events from 1979 through 1987 and a championship race at the end of each year.
1979 – #1, #2
1980 – #5, #6, #7, Golden (Championship?)
1981 - #8, #9, #10, #11, Suzuka One Hour
1982 - #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, Golden (Championship?)
1983 - #17, #18, #19, #20, #21, Golden (Championship?)
1984 - #22, #23, #24, #25, #26, Large Un-numbered December Event (Championship?)
1985 – 7 Race Events Un-numbered
1986 - #36, #39, #40, November Un-numbered Event
1987 – April Un-numbered Event, #43, #44, #45
This series may have been renamed or merged in 1988 with the West Japan Touring Car Race series, which begins that year.
Grand Championship Racing Series, Production Car Racing Series, and Checker Great Race series
These were series of race events with dozens of races for each event, separated into many different one marque races. These series attracted high budget racing teams, including Carboy, Fisco Club Fit, Autofashion, Autosport, Nihon Sportscar Club, Team Real Sports, ALC Racing, ALC-R Dodo, Team I-Marks, Checker, Zero, HRC, TBO, Winners 16, etc. Each of these series’ events included one marque races for Geminis. However, JAF results are very incomplete. With only a few of the total events listed for 1986 and 1987.
West Japan Touring Car Race series
This was a series of race events with dozens of races for each event, separated into many different one marque races. Some race results list models, some do not, but each event shows a mix of all generations of Gemini.
1988 – 7 events listed.
1989 – 6 events listed, but one is titled “1989 Event 10”.
1990 – 6 events listed, but one is titled “1990 Event 12”.
1991 – 5 events listed, but one is titled “1991 Event 9”.
1992 – 5 events listed.
1993 – 5 events listed.
And International Rally:
1981 Lombard RAC Rally, FIA World Rally Championship, Group 2 Class 3: One DNF.
It was mentioned earlier that JAF rally results begin with 1979. It is also worth pointing out that, unlike circuit racing, which has 600-1700 event results per year, rally results number 9-12 races per year, conveniently divided into classes.
Isuzu began fielding 12-13 cars, reducing to 6-8 by 1982, 3 by 1984, and finally a single Gemini in 1985.
The First Generation Gemini was mixed with Corolla, Celica, Bluebird, Mirage, Civic, Leon, Lancer Turbo, Sprinter, and Skyline RS, and the results speak for themselves. The Geminis held even with the Lancer Turbos in 1982 and 1983, but by 1984, the Corolla had eroded the Gemini’s dominance. The Japanese are always quick to point out that all of the generations of Geminis shined most brightly in rally, and it is easy to see why.
JAF rally race results:
1979 – 2 Class B race results with Geminis, 0 - 1st Place, 0 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
1980 – 7 Class B race results with Geminis, 5 - 1st Place, 1 - 2nd Place, 2 – 3rd Place.
1981 – 8 Class B race results with Geminis, 4 - 1st Place, 2 - 2nd Place, 2 – 3rd Place.
1982 – 10 Class B race results with Geminis, 2 - 1st Place, 2 - 2nd Place, 1 – 3rd Place.
1983 – 7 Class B race results with Geminis, 1 - 1st Place, 0 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
* 1983 – 1 Class A race result with Geminis, 0 - 1st Place, 0 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
1984 – 10 Class C race results with Geminis, 0 - 1st Place, 0 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
1985 – 7 Class C race results with Geminis, 0 - 1st Place, 0 - 2nd Place, 0 – 3rd Place.
Bridgestone’s series points results for All Japan Rally Driver’s Champions (begins with 1980):
1980 – Class B: 1st
1981 – Class B: 1st, and 6th
1982 – Class B: 2nd
First Generation Piazza (1980-1990):
I’ve found only a few mentions of the First Generation Piazza in racing during its production period.
A Piazza was entered in the KASC Iwate Mountainous Rally, All-Japan Rally Championship, Round 9 (among 13 Geminis) July 25-26, 1981, it completed the race but did not place.
There was a Piazza entered in the ISCC Golden Castor Cup Race (Isuzu Gemini One Marque) on December 19, 1982. It took first place. This appears to have been the first and last Piazza in the Castor Cup races, and that they were excluded from further participation because they were too much faster than the First Generation Geminis.
Orient Speed and Aquarius built a wide body Piazza (probably for the Group 5 (Silhouette Formula) All Japan Sports Prototype Championship). Few records exist aside from photos of the car on Fuji Raceway. It was entered in the Suzuka Golden Trophy F2 Race on July 2, 1982, but did not participate. It was later entered in the Suzuka 500 KM International Race on April 3, 1983. The car was eighth in qualifying and was either a DNS or they opted not to participate in the race.
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Before ending, I would like to say that I realize I have been particularly critical of Nissan in presenting this information. This is because the context is Nissan and Isuzu’s rivalry, the unknown success of Isuzu in this rivalry, some of the questionable claims about Nissan’s racing history which do not match the race results, and apparent chicanery by Nissan to manufacture legendary status of some of their cars. I do not hate Nissan and fully appreciate the early and late Skylines as amazing machines that are desirable to own. But I think they can remain amazing and desirable without discounting the other cars they raced against as inconsequential, or laying claims to undefeated records when racing in a class containing nothing but Skylines. My intent was not to insult or disparage, only to startle and present information looking from another perspective.
Zombie thread revival alert:
I've been corresponding with a journalist who came up with some very weird and quite wrong
data regarding Nissan's C10-series GT-Rs and their in-period racing history. I couldn't make head or tail of where half of this crock of stuff was coming from until he mentioned this forum and the Isuzu section in particular. Then the penny dropped. Of course! I should have remembered dear old 'jt191' and his parallel universe of 'data'....
What's he up to these days? Is he still punching random search requests into the JAF motorsport website and misinterpreting and misunderstanding the results? Is he looking for more Formula 1 races that the Hakosuka "didn't win"? Has he created his own Isuzu theme park yet?
Seriously, stuff like the above really ought to come with a 'not necessarily endorsed by this site' type warning, or be fenced off and quarantined. There's so much wrong in there that it would be next to impossible to put it right. It's almost dangerous. How can someone appear to have done so much research, know so much Isuzu-related stuff, and yet still appear to know next to nothing
At the very least this post itself might leave any future reader some kind of signpost saying "Here Be Dragons"
. Watch where you step, people.....