1998 Nissan R390 GT1 Pilots: A. Suzuki, K. Hoshino, M. Kageyama Team: NISMO Nissan Motorsport / TWR Race: 3rd overall (GT1) at Le Mans in 1998 Spark (pw) - HACHLM05 (diecast)
When FIA and ACO created the GT1 class in 1994, Nissan promptly adapted its current R33 Skyline for the new class. But as impressive as the R33 GT-R LM was, it wasn’t a purpose-built race car. By 1996 big names like Mercedes-Benz and Porsche were taking full advantage of loopholes in regulations. It became obvious that Nissan needed something new and on par with other manufacturers. So, developed by Nissan’s NISMO, the R390 GT1 had just one objective: win at Le Mans. NISMO contacted Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) to help in the development of the new car, and they had three cars ready for the 24 Heures du Mans of 1997. And of course, they also built one additional street-legal car for homologation purposes. For the engine, NISMO resurrected the VRH35Z, a 3495 cm³ V8 from the old R89C Group C car. The chassis was a full carbon fiber monocoque.
With three cars ready, off to La Sarthe they went. However, after scrutineering, officials demanded a few modifications. And those caused overheating problems, forcing two to abandon and relegate the third to finish in 12th. For the following year changes were necessary, especially to satisfy ACO’s demands of a bigger “luggage space”. That being so, the rear bodywork was extended and the car received a new rear wing and rear diffuser to improve downforce. And for better odds, NISMO built a fourth car for the race. And the effort paid off: all four R390 finished the race, in third, fifth, sixth and tenth. The R390 GT1 #32 here managed third place, behind the winning duo of Porsche’s 911 GT1 98.
As usual, ACO and FIA never leave regulations alone for long, and by 1999 the R390 GT1 was no longer legal. With that, we haven’t seen beautiful cars like the GT1 cars anymore, replaced by the too-futuristic LMP1 cars. And that’s why everyone (especially me!) is so anxious to see the new LM Hypercars class…
Gorgeous car and all, but what about the model? Well, this is one of the newer “diecast Sparks”, sold as a pw model by Hachette. Without a doubt it isn’t as good as a regular Spark, but it’s still very nice for the money. Think of it as an improved (diecast) Minichamps from 10 years ago… Furthermore, the other option for this model is an old Ixo, so if you add all that up, this is a quite nice buy. No, not perfect, but nice buy nonetheless.