The HKS BNR32 Group A GT-R

FIA Group A racing was an international class for modified production cars from 1982 to 1994.  To qualify for Group A racing, the car had to be mass-produced.  This meant a minimum of 2500 per year out of 25,000 for the entire model range.  This is cars like the WRX out of Imprezas or the Evo out of Lancers. The FIA allowed Evolution cars with a minimum production run of 500 cars to compete as well.  These were cars like the BMW M3 Sport Evo, the Nismo GT-R, The Mercedes 201 Evo.  The mightiest of all Group A cars in history was the BNR32 GT-R.  So dominating it was that it was banned in Australian Touring Car Racing and was undefeated in the Japanese Series for 4 years straight.  I really love this sort of pure modified production car racing and wish it was still around. It has evolved to a silhouette semi-spec class that I find boring and don’t even follow anymore.  I bet many fans feel the same as I.

We got a close look at HKS’s iconic BNR32 Group A car in the flesh at Global Time Attack’s Super Lap Battle at Buttonwillow.  Many of us grew up drooling over this very car in Option Magazine.  Although I thought this car was the same one that came in 5th place at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed’s Time Trial, I was mistaken.  That car was a replica built by Ric Wood Motorsport who’s specialty is building Group A tribute cars. I sorta think his cars are even a little bit tidier than the originals!

I still think this is my most favorite HKS livery of all time.  As you can see the car uses the Group N rear deck underwing spoiler, larger side skirt rear wheel extensions, front grill extension, mirrors, and bumper vents that set it off from the production GT-R.  What can cant be seen is the lighter than OEM, aluminum hood, fenders and bumpers.  Otherwise, the bodywork is stock.

The engine for most Group A GT-Rs was a homologation special built by a REINIK, Nissan subsidiary under the Nismo Label. Nissan did homologate and produce special internal parts like blocks, rods, pistons, oil pump, cams, and a few other things that were stronger just for racing and most Group A GT-Rs used these as the basis of their engines.  HKS was a privateer team and they used some of their own parts on their car, as allowed in the homologation rules.  I knew all this exactly at one time but the minutia escapes me now.  The HKS car uses their intercooler. There are also 2 large oil coolers behind the front vents.

12 comments

  1. Man… as per so many Japanese race cars, there’s a combination of “oh my goodness that’s so cool” and headshaking. I also find it … grimly funny that 2850lbs was a “heavy” race car back then.

      1. I mean, I fundamentally agree, but then I look at FIA GT3 where seemingly everything is about that heavy… oh well, “progress”

        1. Bodies in white have gotten 3x heavier due to ever-increasing collision standards. I could easily pick up one end of an S13 shell and move it around but not any new car!

  2. I too really loved production car racing and am a little sad its not still a thing. I bet if it was still a thing, the cars being made nowadays would be a lot more exciting.

  3. Mike, I echo your sentiment about homologation specials. I just wish we had more cars like the GR Yaris.

    As for the BNR32, I’ve always thought the Nismo Group A cars were the top dogs… Until I read about how the Ozzies at Gibson Motorsport tinkered with the GT-R. Apparently the Gibson team explored the possibility of racing against works machinery in Japan, but Nismo effectively banned them from doing so, fearing they might lose face if they lost to foreign competition. Given that Nismo enjoyed a complete monopoly in Japan and supplied all the customer Group A teams with cars, parts and expertise, that does seem like a plausible explanation for why the Japanese and Australian-built cars never met on track.

    I remember reading about how the Gibson guys ordered custom-designed ECUs from Electramotive to control both the engine and the drivetrain with a single unit, in much the same fashion as we do today. I then see a photo of a modern-day Japanese time attack car and sure enough, there’s that familiar collection of boost controllers, turbo timers, ATTESA switches, VVT adjusters and the like, all hooked up with a spaghetti wiring loom that’s attached to the bulkhead with cable ties and sticks out from underneath the remnants of an OEM dashboard… It’s almost as if it’s a prerequisite and a tradition passed down from generation to generation, beginning with the BNR32 and its contemporaries.

  4. Thanks for sharing Mike, seeing these and the Aussie GT-Rs tearing up the competition had a very formative influence on young me and no doubt played a big factor in my being a Nissan tragic ever since.

    Regarding the bodywork, I believe all production GT-Rs had aluminium fenders and an aluminium hood. This is certainly the case for my “base model” BNR32 but who knows if those parts had been swapped out over the years. They do match the condition of the rest of the car though, so I’m fairly confident the car left the factory with them.

  5. It’s a bit unfair to compare the AU vs JP Group A cars. The Japanese cars had no competition and all of the cars in their class were identical so they didn’t need to go to the lengths that Gibson did. There were some cool bits NISMO homologated for the JGTC cars like Carbon Brakes and water cooled calipers which weren’t really seen elsewhere for another 3-4 years or so (besides F1).

  6. Your comment about fuel pumps made me chuckle. Working in the marine industry it was quite a thing when we learned that Yamaha came out with their 425hp V8 outboard with 5(!) fuel pumps a few years ago. Granted it is direct injected. For comparison Mercury’s new 600HP V12 outboard uses a single lift pump paired with a single high pressure pump, but it only has lowly port injection.

    Very cool write up on a very cool car, I remember seeing adds with this car in my favorite mags (what are those?) when I was just getting into modifying cars in my teens!!

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