The word ‘legendary’ is overused in the car world, but it’s fair to say that the Calsonic Nissan Skyline GT-R, that won the Spa 24 Hours and three Australian Group A championships, is a modern legend. It’s the car that earned the GT-R the ‘Godzilla’ nickname. Arguably, it’s the 250 GTO of the PlayStation generation, and Ric Wood’s inch-perfect recreation was certainly the dark horse of the SpeedWeek Shootout presented by Mastercard. We spoke with him about the new challenge of building this wonderful car, and putting it to work at SpeedWeek.
Thrashing the iconic 1,000PS Calsonic GT‑R
Ric’s background is in preparing and racing Ford Capris – they were his pin-up car. This Skyline is his way of challenging himself. The young lads in his shop planted the idea of a late ‘80s, early ‘90s project as a more modern challenge. Going for a full Group A recreation spec wasn’t going to be easy.
“I started off doing my Capris and I love them,” Ric explained. “But I just wanted something a bit more modern. I saw an opportunity because no one’s done a Skyline. Twenty-five Group A Skylines were made originally. The Aussies did their own version outside of FIA rules for Bathurst. Until last year, just one Group A Skyline was around with papers.
“Now I’ve done it, I know why they didn’t do it. It was an absolute bastard. It took six of us working flat-out five months to do it. That’s a lot of time and effort. But I love a bit of a challenge. I love engineering, and understanding how the original makers did what they did and why they did what they did.”
A lot goes into getting a car like this exactly right, to the point of earning papers to make it eligible for modern Group A racing. Especially when you consider they started from a road car. Then again, that’s Group A – based at their core, on cars you could buy in showrooms.
“That is a perfect copy of the original Calsonic car, to the point that the owner of that car actually thought this was his. It’s a really nice recreation, down to every nut and bolt, that’s much nicer than many of the original cars as they sit. Australian cars couldn’t get the FIA papers, so doing the Japanese spec was essential.
“It’s based on a really nice road car, though all that’s retained are the front and rear subframes (modified) and the shell. Everything else is built up, as was. We used CAD and built everything exactly. Even the gauges, I wanted it to have the Nismo font in there even though Nismo is copyrighted. So I had exact dials made with Ricmo in the classic font. Even the driving position that’s better suited to the Japanese drivers. We built it, then had to make adjustments. All that isn’t as it was is maybe the tubing in the cage, which is thicker for regulations. Otherwise, it’s as faithful as possible.”
You might imagine that building a 1,000PS Skyline would be easy given the wealth of knowledge and experience in the vast and dedicated community these cars have assembled. Not so much. Many monstrous Skylines exist. None are built to the specifications used in Group A – single turbos instead of twins, completely different power delivery, rev limits and character. Ric consulted specialists but soon realised he’d have to learn to build a Group A spec himself.
“We did speak with a specialist on the engine but most run single turbo setups. We wanted the twins of the original. Everything the specialists were doing was nothing like what we needed for that. We had to redesign the cams, work on the head and so much more. We initially got 700 horsepower and I knew there was more. Now here we are with 1,000 horsepower.
“It was so, so quick when it was working. We’ve been racing this on the lowest boost, 1.2bar, so that equates to about 650 horsepower. We’re ramping it up over the weekend. It’ll push 1,020 horsepower at 2bar which we’ve tried on track and on the dyno, but never against the clock. On Sunday in the Shootout it can have it all.”
Over the course of the project Ric has fallen for the car more and more. Cool though it is, it’s the drive that’s won his heart.
“When I first did it, I loved the car, but it’s only since driving it that I've suddenly fallen in love with it. I couldn’t not have it in my life as a racing car. It’s very easy to drive, very forgiving, very precise, even though it’s heavy, it’s very nimble. This thing can put out 100PS more than an RS500 on 2.4bar of boost and it be a Sunday drive. I’ve come to learn it, I can get a full four-wheel drift out of it now. What a feeling. It’s unlike anything else I drive. It’s just an RS500 beater. That’s why the car was built and I love it.”
With all that power does however come a couple of technical hitches. It had an appetite for gearboxes initially, but Ric says the downtime sort of worked in his favour. How on Earth? Well, when the car was working, it was so fast and so dominant he feared it might be banned. The breakages, unbeknownst to him at the time, eased that unwelcome attention and spotlight. He can now wind it back and not ruffle any feathers.
At SpeedWeek, it also suffered with fuel pump issues in Friday’s first practice. “We’ll get it going” Ric said, and judging by how the car performed in the Shootout in the end, we’d say they got there.
On hand to put the Skyline’s fastest foot forward in the Shootout at SpeedWeek was touring car ace, Jake Hill.
It’s no happy coincidence that R32 fanatic Jake is in this car at SpeedWeek. “I was racing at the Classic and Ric brought it down to show it off,” he said.
“I couldn’t get away from it. I adored it. I’d worked with one of the mechanics on it before before so he introduced me to Ric and here we are today. It is my dream car, the R32 is my favourite car. I’ve got one as my daily driver and Ric’s building the engine.
“This has so much character and life to it. The Calsonic livery is so recognisable, it makes you feel like a school kid. The British Touring Car is a unique, good little thing. This though, you can’t beat that sound of the turbos, the exhaust. I don’t see the flames up by the window, because I’m holding on for dear life. My eyes still widen every time I open the taps, and that’s not even with the full 1,000 horsepower.”
Looking back to SpeedWeek, BTCC race-winner Jake Hill really did give it his all, wringing out that monstrous powerplant and using all the track, coming an impressive seventh place overall. The comments on YouTube were alive with love for the car, with so many recognising the famous livery, this bonafide Japanese hero.
Ric and Jake had set the Audi R8 GT2 and Porsche 911 GT3 Cup as the cars to beat. Tom Kristensen in the Audi is just one of a number of Le Mans legends Hill and the Skyline put behind them. The GT3 Cup however was the car too far, besting Hill and his fire-spitting GT-R by just over 1.3 seconds. Still, seventh place overall in the Shootout is nothing to sniff at, being under ten seconds off the pace of winner Nick Padmore in the Arrows A11 F1 car of the same year. With a 1 minute 18.6 second lap, we’d say Godzilla’s still got bite. A good show from Ric, Jake and the Group A R32. We’d say the RS500s should be running scared.
Photography by Jordan Butters and Jayson Fong.
Missing motorsport? Sign up for 2021 event updates
Our email newsletters contain all the latest news, stories, and important event information about our motorsport events