Images of the Sabat Nissan Skyline were shot exclusively for Double Apex by lensman David Marchio. Although a relative newcomer to motorsport photography he has built an impressive portfolio to date. This regular contributor to Double Apex brings a unique eye to proceedings.
Click here to see a gallery of endurance racing images shot by Marchio earlier this year.
If you grew up watching South African motor racing in the 1980s or 1990s there are a few cars that will probably stick in your mind. Among these are the Rothmans Audis, the screaming rotary powered Mazda 323, the Ford XR8 ‘Animal’ and the car you see here, the Sabat Nissan Skyline.
Click here to read about some other iconic racecars.
A serial winner
The Nissan was built by master racecar builder Hennie van der Linde. The recognisable red and white coupe was based on a Nissan 2,8 GTX Coupe, but extensively upgraded in keeping with the Wesbank Modifieds rule set of the era. To extract more power the motor it was fitted with three twin-choke Weber side-draught carburettors. A strengthened gearbox and limited slip differential helped transfer that power to the tar.
The Sabat Nissan Skyline is considered by many to be the most successful South African racecar of all time, and its stats back up the claim. In the hands of VD Linde and Sorensen the car racked up 75 wins, an incredible 57 of which were on the trot, and eight championships.
A time capsule
When the Wesbank Modifieds series drew to a close, Sorensen held on to the Sabat Nissan Skyline. Unlike most racecars it was not disassembled or pillaged for parts but garaged as it was. It remained in Sorensen’s hands, a veritable time capsule, until quite recently when motorsport enthusiast Jan-Willem de la Porte bought it.
The famous Nissan has remained untouched since it was raced in the 1980s and 1990s. The engine, suspension, rims, gearbox have all remained unchanged for over two decades.
Back on track
At a recent Killarney Raceway event, multiple SA champion, Deon Joubert, was given the opportunity to drive the Sabat Nissan Skyline. Joubert competed in the Classics and Fine Cars series. A lack of seat time on Friday meant that the Capetonian drove the car in anger for the first time in qualifying on Saturday. He qualified 8th and finished race one in 5th place. Mechanical issues precluded any participation in race two.
Talking about his recent driving experience Deon Joubert was quite nostalgic:
“Guys like Hennie (vd Linde), Tony (Viana), (Ben) Morgenrood and Willie (Hepburn) were quite something. They built these cars themselves and then went off and raced them all over SA. I have been lucky enough to drive cars built by each of them and man they knew what they were doing. Every one of those cars really flew. This Skyline f***** hauls man. Someone mentioned to me that when Hennie would close the bonnet of this Skyline at his workshop on a Thursday evening he wouldn’t have to open it again until after a race weekend was over, the car just ran perfectly, flat-out all the time.”
“Tony, Hennie and these guys were all racing heroes. When I was coming up I got to race against them and that was great. To drive cars they built and raced is a real honour,” concluded Joubert.
In a recent chat with Double Apex, De La Porte confirmed that he plans to make/keep the car as original as possible, with some small changes.
“I want to update some of the vital safety aspects such as the roll cage, safety harness and seat. I plan to race the car at as many events as we can in South Africa.”
It’s good to learn that this piece of SA motorsport racing history will be preserved.