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Group C: The Rise and Fall of the Golden Age of Endurance Racing: Nissan, Part 1

Submitted by on March 8, 2021

By Marcel Hundscheid / Speed-O-Graphica

We continue our Group C retrospective with a look at Nissan’s contribution to the World Sportscar Championship.

Along with fellow Japanese constructors Mazda and Toyota, Nissan also participated in Group C.

Also known as the March 85G, Nissan’s R85V was built on a March chassis. The March chassis was made of aluminium and manufactured in a monocoque construction. From the total of eleven 85G chassis, three were delivered to Nissan.

Nissan equipped the 85V with several different engine types. Two of the three cars used a V6 engine, while the third car was equipped with an inline four-cylinder. Nissan used a turbocharged LZ20B four cylinder that proved to be unsuccessful. The VG30T/C V6 was derived from the standard VG30 engine known from the 300ZX, but was heavily developed. Nissan decided to use twin turbochargers as well as an aluminium engine block. This engine was used in a similar form in the Nissan GTP ZX-Turbo, which took part in the IMSA GT championship in North America. Nissan’s R85V V6 racing engine produced around 690 hp, although used in qualifying trim more than 1000 hp could be achieved.

Nissan purchased three 86G chassis from March and renamed them to Nissan R86V for the 1986 racing season. The R86V could be recognised by the side radiators that improved the aerodynamics of the car. The R86V debuted at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1986. Kazuyoshi Hoshino, Kejii Matsumoto and Aguri Suzuki qualified the car in 24th place, but retired it during the race.

The R86V was succeeded by the R87E. Nissan received three 87G chassis featuring some minor improvements in comparison to the earlier R86V. Equipped with a VEJ30 engine, the car got the new designation R87E. None of the cars that entered the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1987 would make it through the finish due to engine difficulties.

Nissan’s R88C was powered by a newly-developed engine – the VHR30 – and featured a longer wheelbase to improve drive ease. Basically, it was a modified R87E chassis powered by a 3.0 liter V8 with two IHI turbos and could produce 750 hp. By using a higher boost level, 1000 hp was possible. The car finished in 15th overall at the 1988 24 Hours of Le Mans.

For the 1989 season, Nissan switched from the March chassis to a Lola chassis, resulting in the R89C. The R89C was powered by a VRH35 engine capable of over 800 hp. The exterior of the R89C was more sleek, and Nissan debuted the type with three cars at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1989. None of the cars managed to cross the finish line.

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