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Rapid Fire R32

A targa race Skyline GT-R that puts the competition to shame!

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

Click on pics to view larger images

At a glance...

  • Targa race prep'd R32 Skyline GT-R
  • R33 GT-R N1 engine and turbos
  • Autronic management and launch control
  • Proven Dutton Rally winner
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Russell Newman has one hell of a party trick up his sleeve.

Launch control.

To the average Joe, launch control means a lot of loud banging, flames shooting out the exhaust and an indecent amount of performance from a standing start. For the more technically minded, it means raw fuel igniting in the exhaust manifold to ensure the turbochargers are spoolin’ hard enough to deliver 14 psi boost - and that’s before stepping off the clutch pedal!

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When Russell pops the clutch of his targa prep’d R32 Skyline GT-R, your body is subjected to unbelievable acceleration. Not even a set of semi-slick race tyres can assure traction; the mighty GT-R slews sideways with wheelspin before the AWD system hooks up and you’re flung like an object from a catapult.

The off-the-line performance of this GT-R is simply astonishing. And, from all accounts, it’s considerably more than a stock gearbox can handle...

What you’re looking at is a Japanese import R32 GT-R that was purchased by Russell about twelve months ago. Back then it was nothing special - a bit of a roughie with a sick engine. Russell investigated the cost of rebuilding the original RB26DETT engine but leapt at the rare opportunity to purchase a brand new R33 GT-R N1 motor. Russell says that compared to the standard GT-R, the R33 N1 engine boasts upgraded water and oil pumps.

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There’s been no need to disassemble the N1 motor except to slip in a pair of HKS camshafts with OS Gikken adjustable sprockets. The only other internal mod is a metal head gasket.

A Koyo aluminium radiator keeps the RB26 running cool while a baffled sump and large capacity oil catch-can take care of lubrication issues. Given the competition application of the car, these are considered essential.

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To the side of the new engine you’ll find a pair of N1 turbochargers (which were purchased separately from the engine). These turbos suck through an A’PEXi induction system comprising twin cast alloy elbows and filters. At the time of photography, a custom 4 inch exhaust was fitted but, unfortunately, this system exceeded the maximum allowable noise level for competition events. A Gonzo 4 inch system now provides effective muffling together with minimal backpressure.

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Russell says the N1 turbochargers are relatively small compared to what’s employed in other modified GT-Rs. Their advantage is that they boost nice an’ early and provide a useable rev range - something that’s often overlooked in targa style race cars. Boost pressure peaks at around 23 psi and, interestingly, the standard intercooler does a fine job maintaining charge temps – as shown by the vehicle’s data logging system. The standard Nissan blow-off valves remain in service, though now venting to atmosphere.

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The electronic brain is an Autronic stand-alone programmable computer, which relies on a MAP sensor load input. The Autronic controls fuel, ignition, boost, launch control, rev limit and provides a data-logging function. The fuel system currently comprises a 044 Bosch Motorsport fuel pump, Sard pressure regulator and rail, a larger diameter supply line and 660cc injectors. A surge tank or fuel cell will soon complete the system.

The ignition incorporates an Autronic CDI unit for maximum spark energy.

After being tuned by C-N-J Motorsport, peak power is a thumping 330kW at all four wheels (as measured on a Dyno Dynamics chassis dyno with 23 psi boost and 98 RON pump fuel). Russell says they’ve seen an easy 350kW at all fours when experimenting with BP race fuel. Just coz they were curious...

Copping the torture of the hard-launching RB26DETT is an Exedy twin-plate clutch that’s modified for extra bite. At the time of our photo shoot, a standard R32 GT-R gearbox had been slung in until a PPG 5 speed dog ‘box arrived. We’re told the original gearbox dropped its bundle after running a couple of low 11 second passes at the Dutton GP rally. The replacement gearbox is a temporary fitment that must be treated gently (relatively speaking!).

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And what’s the car’s fastest quarter mile time, you ask? Try a bloody fast 11.1 ET at 127 mph. Russell says his GT-R goes into the record books with the fastest quarter mile pass in the history of the Dutton Rally. Now that’s a claim to fame! The car also winds out to about 270 km/h on the back straight of the Willowbank raceway.

Russell tells us the R32 GT-R is his first proper racecar. As such, there’s been a bit of learning along the way...

For example, it was quickly discovered that the standard GT-R brakes aren’t suitable for race purposes. When, after a day of competition, the pedal sank to the floor and a set of discs was destroyed, it became obvious a major upgrade was needed... At present, a set of high-performance pads is the only braking system mod but Russell is looking forward to a pair of 6-pot front anchors.

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The suspension could probably use a bit more development as well. The ex-Japan Tein struts have been reconditioned and Russell switched to softer Eibach springs but he still doesn’t know much about the damper rates. A pair of adjustable castor rods, adjustable top control arms and rear suspension pineapples (which replace softer rubber bushes) are also installed. Interestingly, the rear HICAS steering system has been removed to enhance high-speed stability.

Wheels are 17 inch Volk Racing wearing 225/40 Dunlop semi-slick (but street legal) rubbers.

The cabin is standard GT-R fare except Russell runs a dual 12 inch sub-woofer sound system for road duties. These woofers come out for motorsport appearances and, for certain events, the rear seat is removed to fit a pair of fire extinguishers. Russell has also fitted a Recaro driver’s seat and harness – a combination that we’re told made a tremendous difference to vehicle control.

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As a newcomer to the motorsport arena, Russell is quickly making a name for himself amongst some decorated drivers. Obviously, he has a lot of natural ability but with a gentle pat on the bonnet he says it’s the car that makes it all happen.

"It does everything right – it starts first time and never misses," he says,

Except, of course, when that bang-bang system is activated!


As we prepared this article, Russell had just taken his GT-R to victory in the 2005 NSW Dutton Rally. His mighty GT-R came 1st outright in the driver category and 3rd outright in the team category (with co-driver Mark Berry hampered by a split heater hose). The only major mods since our photo shoot are the fitment of AP 6-pot front brakes, R34 GT-R wheels, torque-split controller and a PPG dog ‘box.

As a bonus, the car ran its fastest ever quarter mile time – 10.85 seconds at 131.9 mph. Oh, and that was achieved on street tyres! The car also ran 19.0 seconds over the 800m sprint – the only car in a field of ninety-five to stop the stopwatches at less than 20 seconds.

See – we told you this GT-R goes!


C-N-J Motorsport                       +617 3290 3966

Russell would also like to send a big thanks to the guys at C-N-J, PPG and Gonzo Exhausts.

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