Yesterday we wrote about the watershed events that put Datsun on the motorsports map in the USA (and by extension, the western world). Here’s how it began in Japan. We’ve written about the Prince Skyline GT-B‘s historic battle against the race-bred Porsche 904 before, but here’s an official video from Nissan.
There’s great, grainy race footage to be seen and even an interview with the driver of the #39 car, Yoshikazu Sunako. It’s worth watching just to see the now-elderly gent describe drifting Suzuka Circuit on crappy bias-ply tires and beam with enthusiasm about how Tetsu Ikuzawa was “the man” for passing the Porsche in his #41 car.
The event at the 1964 Japan Grand Prix inspired a generation of gearheads, including Nissan’s current COO and Kazuyoshi Hoshino, who won the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1992 in the Nissan R91CP. It’s amazing to hear him say, “If [the Skyline GT-B] didn’t exist, I would have chosen another path in life.”
i keep clicking the pics, hoping they’ll turn into a video 🙁
I think this might be it:
It looks pretty similar.
Link to the video.
Sorry everyone, the embedding got messed up. Now the video is at the bottom and playable.
Awesome video love this kind of thing
Wait a sec! A plucky underdog average Joe (Nissan) taking on and leading, but not beating, a well established purpose bred champ (Porsche) to inspire a nation? Ain’t this just the plot to the movie “Rocky”!?!? Pfft you can’t fool me
Why don’t they show old raes like this on SPEED.
There’s a coda to this story…..
Sokichi Shikiba – entrant and driver of the Porsche 904 GTS, and owner of the ‘Racing Mate’ auto accessories / race equipment brand – was a long-time protege of Toyota, and has intimated that Toyota ‘encouraged’ him to buy and enter the Porsche in the race in question simply to spoil the Skyline’s show.
Toyota themselves had no answer for the Skyline on the track at the time, so pushed Shikiba san to get hold of the Porsche at short notice. In fact, they may indeed have actually *paid* all the costs incurred…..
Shikiba had a mishap in practice the day before the race, and damaged the front end of the Porsche. Apparently the car was still slightly deranged come the race, hampering Shikiba’s pace and allowing the Skylines – which should not really have been anywhere near it on the Suzuka circuit – to chase and harry it like a pack of dogs chasing a lame fox.
So, what was supposed to have been a humiliating rout was turned into a great PR opportunity, with the Skylines seen as the moral victors and the Porsche looking slower than it should have. Not only that, but that Porsche inspired the Prince engineers at Murayama – headed by Dr Shinichiro Sakurai – to redouble their racing efforts, which resulted in the Porsche-beating R380-series sports racers and the Nissan Skyline GT-R.
Sometimes the race is not always to the swift….
I’ve heard that story about Toyota too, and that when the Porsche was damaged Toyota lent staff and garage space to repair it. Typical Japanese hospitality or something more sinister?
The question I’ve always had was, at the time of the race the Skyline was still a Prince. The conspiracy would make more sense if Toyota wanted to take down its biggest rival, Nissan, but an elite luxury car manufacturer?
I think it’s a big subject once you start opening it up…
Of course, the GT-2 race was just one race in a meeting with multiple races and multiple classes. The GT-2 race wasn’t even the main event ( which was a Formula Junior race with two classes ) and Toyota literally didn’t have a horse in the GT-2 race; it was shaping up to be a showdown between sixteen SP310 Fairladies, six MGBs, three PR90 Bellett 1600GTs, a Triumph TR4, a Lotus Elan, a Lotus Elite and those eight Skyline GTs. Quite a few of the original entries never made the grid ( including a Porsche Carrera 6, a Triumph Spitfire, a Sunbeam Alpine and a Hillman… ), but Toyota weren’t represented anyway. Maybe they just wanted to take the shine off of anyone else’s show?
Toyota had UP10s in the T2 race, RT20s in the T-5 race and RS40s in the T-6 race. Only the UP10s did well ( with a one, two, three in the T2 race ) and Prince’s Skyline 1500s cleaned up in the T-5 race ( filling the first seven places ), totally outclassing the Coronas. Maybe Toyota did see Prince as a serious competitor, even if it was more in the press and advertising than in the showroom…?
Great stuff to watch! Now I’m happy……
By the way, despite what the commentary on the video says, the blue no.39 car in Nissan’s collection is actually a replica / re-creation. It was built some years ago to fill a gap in their collection, and the latest rebuild was more of a refresh than anything more extensive.
Hello. And Bye.