| Nissan had won the previous Japanese Grand Prix, comfortably
beating the Porsche 910. While they no doubt savoured their victory, it
was a hollow one, as the R381 had become the only factory race car in their
history not to have used a Nissan engine. Development of their new 6 litre
V12 had fallen behind schedule, and reluctantly the head of their design
team, Shinichiro Sakurai, had gone to the United States and had returned
with some worked Chevrolet V8s to power the cars. Nissan now had another
year to prepare their new engine, and to redesign their car after a major
change to the Group 7 regulations.
There would be no delays this time around with the engines,
and the all new Nissan GRX-3 was ready long before the car was. The GRX-3
was a major technological achievement for Nissan's engineers. At close
to 600hp it was the most powerful engine ever built in Japan by a long
margin. The engine was a 5954cc twelve cylinder engine with twin cam cylinder
heads, four valves per cylinder and a Lucas mechanical fuel injection system.
The engine produced 580hp at 7500rpm.
The chassis and aerodynamics of the previous R381 worked exceptionally
well, especially the high-mounted adjustable rear wing. Nissan would have
been happy to have continued to use this set-up, but events in Europe were
about to end that plan. The high wings found on the early Can-Am cars,
which were similar to the ones on the previous Nissan R381, had originated
in the United States in the Can-Am series, but had quickly come to the
attention of the Formula 1 designers who quickly adapted them to their
designs. There had been some terrible Formula 1 crashes that had been caused
by failures of these high-set wings, and as a result the FIA banned them
from all FIA sanctioned events, including the Group 7 category Nissan were
competing in at the time. So it was back to the drawing board again for
Sakurai and his team.
With the big wing at the back removed downforce had to be found elsewhere,
and that was done by sculpting the body. The new car featured a much more
angular nose section and a high kicked-up tail end to generate more downforce.
Nissan appeared to have taked a long hard look at the McLaren M8B Can-Am
car, as a lot of the new car's features mirrored that of the McLaren, especially
it's front. Nissan made the most of the high tail, which was so high it
was close to being the highest point of the car, and installed the car's
radiator up there in the air flow to maximise cooling to the huge V12.
The car also featured a huge air box that sat on the engine, which was
similar to that used in Formula 1 cars. The new car was to be called the
Nissan R382, and it was ready to race.
Nissan may have had their most powerful car ever at the 1969
Japanese Grand Prix, but it was not going to be a walk in the park for
them, as the competition was more fierce than ever. Toyota had been hard
at work on their Toyota 7 cars and they were now producing around 600hp,
and in the meantime Isuzu had viewed last year's Nissan-Chevrolets with
great interest and had developed their own racing prototype called the
Isuzu R7, which also used the Chevrolet V8. But the biggest threat came
again from Porsche, who had entered their new Porsche 917K, a car that
would go on to win the LeMans 24 hour race the next year. Driving the factory
entered Porsche was Formula 1 winner and Porsche sports car racer Jo Siffert,
a man who had just won the Daytona 24 hour race and the Sebring 12 hour
in 1968 in a Porsche 907. Nissan entered three R382s in the race and ended
up winning the race and coming second as well. Third place went to a Toyota
7, which had done surprisingly well to beat the Porsche, but was ultimately
a lap down on the winning Nissan at the end of the race.
Nissan went straight to work on the R382's replacement, the
R383. But if fate had thrown them a curve-ball in 1969 this was nothing
compared to what awaited them in 1970.
Nissan R382 Specifications
Length - 4045mm
Width - 1870mm
Height - 925mm
Wheelbase - 2400mm
Weight - 790kg
Top speed - unknown
Transmission - unknown
Model - GRX-3
Capacity - 5954cc
Bore & Stroke - unknown
Power - 600hp@7500rpm
Torque - 62kg/m
Compression - unknown
Fuel system - Lucas mechanical
Final Drive - unknown