1987 Nissan R87E
Year of manufacture1987
Number of seats2
The ex-Works, Hoshino/Wada/A Suzuki, Le Mans 24 Hours
1987 Nissan R87E Group C Sports Prototype
Chassis no. 87G-3
Engine no. VE45
This Nissan sports prototype, chassis number 'R87G-3', is one of four upgraded to R88C specification for the 1988 season of Group C sports car racing. Regarded by many as a modern 'golden age' of international sports car competition, the FIA's Group C category for roofed prototypes lasted from 1982 to 1993. Rather than being based on engine capacity and weight, the traditional parameters of motor racing formulae, Group C placed a limit on the amount of fuel permitted but otherwise allowed constructors virtually a free hand in design. As interest in the class grew, the world's major motor manufacturers joined the fray with Ford, Porsche, Jaguar, Aston Martin, Lancia, Mercedes-Benz, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota all fielding works entries.
Nissan's initial support for the formula was relatively low-key. In 1983 they supplied engines for the privately run Hoshino team and it was not until 1985 that a factory competitions department was formed, known as Nissan Motorsport, or 'Nismo'. In 1986 Nissan commissioned the British manufacturer March to supply a chassis suitable for Group C. Designed by former McLaren Formula 1 engineer Gordon Coppuck, it was a monocoque fabricated from aluminium honeycomb panels, and featured side-mounted radiators for greater aerodynamic efficiency. The four chassis built were shipped to Nissan in Japan for completion.
The Japanese manufacturer already had experience of building an engine for sports car racing, its production-derived V6, used initially by the Electromotive team for the IMSA GTP series in the USA, having been undergoing development for the preceding couple of years. For 1986 this engne was extensively reworked to take advantage of the less restrictive Group C rules, re-emerging with an aluminium block and twin Garrett turbochargers, replacing the cast-iron block and single turbocharger of the GTP unit. Around 700bhp was available from this 3.0-litre engine in race trim, with up to 1000 horsepower on tap for qualifying.
The first of Nissan's new R86 Group C prototypes debuted at a national race at Suzuka but was sidelined following a fire in practice. Lacking development, the R86 failed at Le Mans while an earlier R85 could only manage 16th. All four cars competed at Fuji later in the year, the two survivors finishing 10th and 11th. Undeterred by these poor results, Nissan regrouped for 1987.
Its hopes for success were centred on a new purpose-built 3.0-litre V8 'VEJ30' racing engine equipped with twin IHI turbochargers, which out-performed the old V6 in terms of both maximum power and fuel economy. An exclusive chassis supply deal had been concluded with March, which shipped three new 87G cars to Japan. In Nissan nomenclature they became the R87E. Surprisingly, given the disappointments of 1986, Nissan once again undertook very little competition proving prior to Le Mans, which was its primary objective, a single entry at Fuji being the R87E's solitary outing. The car failed to finish, as did the two R87Es that ran at Le Mans. Engine failures had been the cause of all these retirements so the V8 was completely redesigned for 1988 as the 'VRH30', the existing March 86G/87G chassis being adapted to accommodate the new power plant. These changes included a lengthened wheelbase and revised aerodynamics on the resulting R88C cars.
Learning from past mistakes, Nissan entered more races in the run up to Le Mans where it was represented by two works R88Cs and two privately entered V6-engined cars. Reliability once again proved to be the Nissan's Achilles heel, though the Japanese manufacturer did manage to get one of the R88Cs to the finish, albeit 50 laps behind the winning Jaguar XJR-9. The other car, that offered here, completed 286 laps before the engine failed. '87G-3' also competed in six races at Fuji and Suzuka in 1988. Always carrying competitor number '23', it was usually driven by Kazuyoshi Hoshino and Kenji Takahashi. They were joined by Win Percy for the Fuji 1000km in May, while for the Le Mans 24 Hours, Hoshino was partnered by Takao Wada and Aguri Suzuki. Its complete 1988 race history is as follows:
3rd March - Fuji 500km, Hoshino/Takahashi, DNF
10th April - Suzuka 500km, Hoshino/Takahashi, 6th
1st May - Fuji 1000km, Hoshino/Takahashi/Percy, 7th
12th June - Le Mans 24 Hours, Hoshino/Wada/A Suzuki, DNF
24th July - Fuji 500miles, Hoshino/Takahashi, 5th
28th August - Suzuka 1000km, Hoshino/Takahashi/T Suzuki, DNF
9th October - Fuji 1000km, Hoshino/Takahashi/Grice, 9th
Despite a switch to Lola chassis and the development of an enlarged V8 engine, Nissan had little to show for its involvement in Group C by the time the factory pulled the plug on the campaign, pole position at Le Mans in 1990 being the summit of its achievement.
'87G-3' later passed into the ownership of Robert Berridge of Beckley, Oxfordshire, from whom it was acquired by the current vendor. The car has been restored (see certification on file) and retains its 1988 Calsonic sponsor's livery and Le Mans driver listing. The transmission and engine were rebuilt as part of the restoration, and Xtec Engineering's £27,347 bill for its work on the latter, dated May 2011, is on file also. Rebuilt to the specification of the later 3.3-litre unit, the engine recorded a power output reading of 780bhp on the dynamometer. A later Stack dashboard is the only other notified deviation from factory specification.
'87G-3' has run for less than one hour since the rebuild's completion and is presented in commensurately good condition. Offered with (lapsed) Group C Racing Technical Document, '87G-3' represents a rare opportunity to acquire an ex-works Group C sports prototype with in-period Le Mans history.