1990 NISSAN R90CP
PART OF THE ASCOTT COLLECTION - NOT AVAILABLE FOR SALE
24 hours of Le Mans in 1989 & 1990
Time Capsule car: Car preserved untouched after its last race at the Fuji 500 km in 1991
Direct from the Nissan Heritage Collection in Japan
GROUP C RACING by PETER AUTO
LE MANS CLASSIC
MASTERS ENDURANCE LEGENDS USA
DAYTONA CLASSIC 24 HOUR by HSR
ROLEX MONTEREY MOTORSPOSTS REUNION
SEBRING CLASSIC 12 HOUR by HSR
NISSAN VRH35Z 3.5 LITER BI-TURBO
850 hp @ 7,200 rpm
HEWLAND 6 SPEED
The Nissan Groupe C R90CP and R90CK bear witness to a legendary period in endurance racing, when manufacturers competed against each other and invested considerable financial, technical and human resources. These prototypes benefited from the best technologies of the time, with the widespread use of carbon in the construction of the chassis, body and brakes. These cars were developed at the turn of the 80s and 90s and symbolise the pinnacle of Group C. The Ascott Collection owns two rare examples which were preserved by Nissan in the Nissan Heritage Collection for 30 years.
Le Mans 1989, the philosophical break
It was in 1986 that Nissan entered the Le Mans 24 Hours for the first time, following in the footsteps of Toyota (in 1985) and Mazda, already present as an engine supplier and increasingly involved since 1983 through the Mazdaspeed structure. Like the other manufacturers from the Land of the Rising Sun, Nissan wanted to be the first Japanese manufacturer to shine at the Sarthe. In order to achieve this, the brand developed increasingly crazy prototypes, with the R90C being the pinnacle.
Since 1986, when two official cars were entered for each event (two Nissan R85Vs in 1986, two Nissan March R87Es in 1987 and two Nissan R88Cs in 1988), the Japanese manufacturer decided to step up the pace in 1989. The Nismo team entered three new R89Cs. Seen for the first time at Dijon a month earlier, the new cars represented a fundamental departure from previous entries. It was no longer March that was responsible for the chassis, but Lola. This change was largely dictated by the results achieved in the USA, where the British chassis manufacturer was responsible for the GTP programme (the T810 chassis became the Nissan GTP ZX-Turbo). Lola Cars was the new partner for Nissan, with Eric Broadley in charge of the design.
With a composite body, highly aerodynamic lines and rounded shapes, the R89Cs aimed to create a ground effect with numerous elements designed to achieve a high top speed. Note the side air intakes to cool the brakes and the central flap to direct air to the radiator. In front of the windscreen, air intakes directed air into two tunnels to keep the car glued to the ground.
Mechanically there was the 3.5 litre V8 engine, combined with two IHI turbochargers to produce 800 bhp. The VRH35 engine was developed for Group C and was first fitted to the R89C. In 1990 the VRH35 became the VRH35Z for installation in the R90C. Another derivative version appeared much later, in 1997, to power the Nissan R390 GT1 when the Japanese manufacturer decided to return to endurance racing. This was the VRH35L version. This engine was bought by McLaren from TWR after the GT1 programme. Renamed M838T and then M840T, it was subsequently developed to power several of the British manufacturer's models, including the MP4-12C, 720S and even the P1. Yes, the R89 and R90 have something in common with the most exclusive McLarens!
The birth of the R89C coincided with the creation of Nismo Europe, a branch dedicated to the entry of prototypes in the World Championship. This subsidiary was based in England and headed by Howard Marsden. This Nismo branch in Europe worked in conjunction with Nissan in Japan, making it possible for the first time to manage a high-level global commitment. This two-headed organisation had become essential in order to be able to participate in the entire World Sports Prototype Championship season and thus have the right to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. All three Nissan R89Cs had to retire at the Sarthe (after 5 laps for car n°24, 167 laps for car n°23 and 250 laps for car n°25).
1990, Le Mans Ni Katsu
In 1990, Nissan returned to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, this time entering seven cars, five of which were official. The chassis were largely modified, with the R90CP on one side and the R90CK on the other. The Nissan armada came to shine and the commitment was strong. You could see a Nissan on the official poster and on the cover of the magazine. Even better, one of the two new chicanes in the Hunaudières was named "Nissan chicane"!
On the R90CP, the main development was the installation of the VRH35Z engine with a bonnet designed by Nissan Performance Technology (NPTI). This changed the airflow, directing air from the front of the bonnet through a large central intake and two side intakes. The fairing mirrors also helped to differentiate this version, as did the new rear periscopes for brake cooling. Although the new R90CP was based on the R89C, 70 per cent of the parts were actually manufactured by Nissan and NISMO. One of the R90CPs (#23, chassis 01) used carbon brakes manufactured by Carbone Industrie in conjunction with Brembo calipers. This was a first in the history of the race. Nissan had made this choice (as well as mixing the tyre suppliers between the cars) to cope with the changes brought about by the addition of the chicanes on the Hunaudiere straight. Howard Marsden, the man in charge of the project, told the 24 Hours Guide: "Lap times should increase by 20 seconds, while the distance covered will decrease by 10%. On the other hand, you can expect to see two or three pace car interventions. If there are any problems, it will be the brakes and the gearbox. Le Mans is now characterised by four 2km straights. That's why we'll be testing carbon discs at NME.
With the R90CK, K for 'Kae' which means improvement in Japanese, everything has been designed for performance. The first R90CK chassis appeared at Monza, the temple of speed. The perfect place to test the main developments, such as the suspension with increased travel. Thanks to more intensive work in partnership with Dunlop (who supplied exclusive tyres for the R90C), radial tyres (18" front and 19" rear) were fitted on new Speedline rims. The braking system has also evolved, with a partnership signed with AP rather than Brembo. For the rider, a narrower seat width had to be accommodated due to the increased width of the spoilers. The bodywork was modified with a shorter nose, a longer tail and now a two-piece spoiler with large drifts. Extensive wind tunnel work was carried out on the R90CK to achieve a massive ground effect combined with top speeds approaching 400km/h. In 1990, Mark Blundell took the first ever pole position for a Japanese marque at the Le Mans 24 Hours with a time of 3'27''020 in the #24 R90CK. A time that would allow you to fight with the Hypercar today!
In short, the R90CK had an aerodynamic configuration adapted to sprint racing, the result of a collaboration between Nissan Europe (NME) and Lola in Milton Keynes. The R90CP was designed for the Japanese Prototype Sports Championship and was developed by Nismo in Japan. At Le Mans there were cars from Nissan's European (#24 and #25), American (#83 and #84) and Japanese (#23) subsidiaries. No two Nissans were exactly alike: bodywork, tyres, brakes, mirrors, livery and, above all, sponsorship - there were many details to distinguish them.
Of the five prototypes on the grid, only two would see the chequered flag, the Hasemi/Hoshino/Suzuki R90CP in 7th place and the Millen/Roe/Earl R90CK in 17th.
NISSAN R90CP #R89C-01
The first Nissan R89C chassis to be assembled, #R89C-01, was determined at Snetterton in March 1989 before being run on a private track in Arizona in April. There the car reached a speed of 386 km/h. It was then at Dijon, for its first competitive appearance in the World Sports Prototype Championship, that #R89C-01 was seen. Julian Bailey and Mark Blundell finished 15th in the final race after setting the 6th fastest time in practice, not far behind the Mercedes! At Le Mans, Julian Bailey and Mark Blundell were joined by another British hopeful, Martin Donnelly. The latter drove a 3'24'09 in practice, just ahead of Bailey's 3'24'26! The #24 Nissan reached a top speed of 380 km/h.
The 12th place on the grid did not seem to satisfy Julian Bailey, who decided to make a mad dash for it at the start. He passed all his rivals until he was battling for second place with Nielsen's Jaguar. But a contact with Mulsanne stopped his cavalcade. The car had been hit, a suspension link had pierced the fuselage and he had to retire. In 1990, the #R89C-01 was updated and improved, particularly in terms of suspension and aerodynamics. It arrived at Le Mans in mid-May with Brembo steel brakes and Goodyear tyres. Its entry was privately insured by the Courage team as the car was on loan. This NISSAN R89CP made its last appearance at the Fuji 500 km, where it proudly wore the number 01 as NISSAN had won the Japanese Championship the previous year. After qualifying in 3rd position, it finished the race in 9th place, driven by M Hasemi and A Olofsson. The year before the duo had finished second in the car and won the Fuji 500. It was after the 1991 Fuji 500 that this NISSAN became part of the Nissan Heritage Collection. More than 31 years have passed and this racing beast is a real time capsule, still bearing its original livery and the stigma of the race on its bodywork. A sleeping beauty that only deserves to be back on the track.
It will join the Ascott Collection in 2022.
 "Le Mans objective" in Japanese