One of the most iconic R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R race cars is going up for auction this Saturday. The Team Taisan GT-R competed in the Japan Touring Car Championships during the era of the R32’s utter dominance of the series, helping the chassis rack up an undefeated 29 victories. However, despite the car winning just one race out of 29, in my opinion, aside from the Calsonic GT-R, this has to be one of the most collectible R32s, bar none.
Established on July 7, 1943 by Yasutsune “Ricky” Chiba, Taisan is a successful Tokyo-based company is a manufacturer of electromagnetic pumps. Its products move gases, oils, liquids, and chemicals in various applications ranging from medical equipment to machine tools. Its links to the automotive world is slight; you might find in your car a fuel or heater pumps made by Taisan.
However, Chiba-san was immensely passionate about motorsports, and used his fortune to privately manage a race team, Team Taisan International. Long before Team Taisan campaigned the R32, though, it was most known for its Porsche racers. Founded in October 1983, Team Taisan was established initially to help constructor Nova Engineering manage one of its Porsche 956 prototypes in the All-Japan Endurance Championships and Fuji Long Distance Championships. Nova Engineering had a partnership with Yokohama Tire, and thus began the association with the famed black-and-red livery of Yokohama’s Advan sub-brand.
The team’s first first victory took place at the Fuji 500km in 1984 at the hands of Kunimitsu Takahashi, a veteran driver from the golden age of motorsports. Takahashi began as a Honda motorcycle racer, but was recruited by Nissan to pilot one of its legendary hakosuka Skylines during the GT-R’s first age of touring car dominance, the “Victory 50” era. Takahashi would go on to win three consecutive titles in the Fuji Long Distance Championships, from 1985-87, in the Advan Nova Porsche 962C.
Meanwhile, a young driver had been making a name for himself in the Group A ranks behind the wheel of a Advan-sponsored Toyota AE86. His name was Keiichi Tsuchiya, soon to be known throughout the world as the Drift King when the sport of sliding cars grew into a global phenomenon. As a teenager, Tsuchiya had been inspired to become a racing driver by watching the touring car competitions of the early 1970s — in which his hero Kunimitsu Takahashi drove a hakosuka Skyline GT-R in an aggressive manner where the rear tires would break traction. Eventually, Tsuchiya would even buy a 4-door Hakosuka as his street car.
The R32 GT-R won every single race in the Japan Touring Car Championships held from 1990-93. Team Taisan was a relative latecomer to the series, not campaigning a car until 1991. Tsuchiya was recruited to drive, paired with another Taisan driver per JTCC rules. By then, the prowess of the R32 GT-R was already apparent and the Skyline GT-R name, after a two decade absence, was well on its way to becoming the stuff of legend.
It wasn’t until the 1992 season when the planets aligned for Tsuchiya, and taking the place of the other Taisan driver was none other than Kunimitsu Takahashi himself, still racing at age 52. It was a dream come true for Tsuchiya, now 36, and the pair soon became regulars on the podium. Together, they raced the Taisan GT-R for two years, until the end of the R32’s tenure in 1993.
At the end of the second era of GT-R dominance, Takahashi and Tsuchiya went on to form their own race team, whose victories included a 1995 win of the GT2 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Honda NSX. In actuality, the renowned duo won only one race in the Taisan GT-R, the 1993 JTCC race at Autopolis, but it was the fulfillment of a life-long dream of Tsuchiya’s. Tsuchiya had said it was his grandest ambition to win a race driving on the same team as his childhood idol, and it is this fairy tale ending for Japan’s most famous driver of the modern age that made this car so special.
In 2000, the car was restored by NISMO’s Omori Factory ahead of the NISMO Festival that year. In this episode of Hot Version, Tsuchiya was reunited with this pivotal car from his long and storied career.
In 1994 Team Taisan returned to the Porsche 962C, but was now also running two Ferrari F40s to compete in the GT2 class of the reconstituted Japan Grand Touring Championships. The F40 won just one race, at Mine Circuit of the 1994 season, and was converted to street use afterwards. Its sister car didn’t win any JGTC races and is now located in the UK, but is still said to be the winningest F40 in existence.
During its 36 years in operation, Team Taisan won 50 races both domestically and overseas in a wide variety of race series, including a 2000 class win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Porsche 911 GT3-R. Now, it is time to bestow these pieces of motorsports history onto the next generation of owners and enthusiasts. Chiba-san has said that his race activities “are now entering the stage of total finishing,” meaning he is getting set to retire. “My 36 years of complete devotion to racing activities are now complete.”
Other cars that will be auctioned off include a Dodge Viper GTS-R campaigned in JGTC from 1997-2000 that has been converted for street use in Japan, drifter Eiji “Tarzan” Yamada’s 2003 Dodge Viper Formula D demo car, a Lola chassis that came in 8th place at the 1996 Indy 500, the Yunkel Power Porsche 996 911 GT3 campaigned in JGTC’s GT300 class in 2007, 1924 Bentley Speed 3.0 chassis number 512, and an R35 Nissan GT-R SuperGT racer from 2014. In addition, the team is auctioning off several unique pieces, like a spare F40 engine, the front cowl of a 962C, and Rays wheels from the Group A R32.
The Taisan GT-R is expected to fetch ¥50 million ($440,000 USD). That sounds like a bargain, considering that a body-in-white Group A R32 GT-R race car is said to have cost ¥55 million in 1990 yen when purchased new from NISMO. It would be a crown jewel in any collection of Japanese cars, but Chiba-san is ready to pass it along. “In a sense, this is the auction of my life,” he said, “Because racing is my life itself, so I do not regret anything.” The auction will take place at the Sound of Engine festival at Suzuka Circuit this Saturday, November 17. More photos of the cars can be found at the BH Auctions website.
Images: BH Auctions