When it comes to improving and maintaining the awesome Nissan Skyline GT-R, there are few companies who have the experience and depth of knowledge of RB Motorsport.
Run by Rod Bell, the company is home to some of the most highly tuned GT-Rs in the country, including Keith Cowie’s awesome World Record-breaking R32, as well as being a main distributor for tuning parts by top companies like OS Giken, Tomei and Trust.
Rod began his association with the steroidal Skyline back in 1991 when he started working as Andy Middlehurst’s race mechanic. Rod had the job of building an R32 GT-R racer to stringent Group N regulations, debuting the car in the 1992 National Saloon Car Cup.
Those harsh regs restricted the RB26 motor’s power output, and didn’t allow uprated brakes either, which was a big problem on the early Skylines. But that year, running low boost, low revs and borderline brakes, Andy finished just off the top three. The following year the regulations changed and allowed a little more power, but – more importantly – proper track-orientated brakes. With big AP Racing discs and six-pot callipers, and Andy tore apart the field to take the 1993 championship with an overwhelming 15 out of 16 race wins. This happened again in 1994 and 1995 too. From nowhere, the Skyline GT-R had gone straight to the top of the saloon-car tree.
When the regulation changes outlawed the Skyline in 1996, Rod continued working with Andy, looking after Nissan Primeras. Winning was in the team’s blood because they not only took the title that year, but continued to dominate the field in 1997 and 1998. After the end of the 1998 season, Rod moved on to some freelance spannering before getting the urge to return to the North of England and start his own business. During his time working on race cars, he built up a massive amount of experience and knowledge of what does and doesn’t work on Skylines. And as more people found out that he was available to do service and modification work on road cars, so his workload grew through solid word-of-mouth recommendation.
Customers like Keith Cowie were very vocal in their support, mentioning Rod on Internet forums to anyone who was looking for someone to take good care of their Skyline. It wasn’t long before the shared premises he was working from became too small, and Rod had to take the gamble and move into a unit of his own.Within a few months, this garage was straining at the seams, and after a year came the chance to move into the Mawdesley premises that RB Motorsport work from today. Not only has the workshop space increased, RB’s facilities have also become more comprehensive, and the staff levels have risen to cope with the additional workload in all departments.
Looking after the mountains of paperwork and parts sales are Steve Richards and Richard ‘Dickie’ Hughes, who between them have a vast knowledge of standard and uprated Skyline bits. In the workshop Ian ‘Pove’ Povall does the majority of the engine and subassembly builds, Mark ‘Cord’ Cordall does the machining and fabrication , and John ‘Gunner’ Gait is the main vehicle techie. We’re not quite sure of Desmo the greyhound’s role, although we think he might be credit manager…
As for Rod himself, he spends his time either getting stuck into the bigger engine builds, overseeing the regular tasks, or he’s out on the road playing with a laptop, mapping another be-turbo’d monster. With a modern Jap car’s reliance on electronic brain power, Rod’s doing more and more mapping work on all levels of tuned cars.
Apart for the usual ramps and regular tools, RB have invested quite a bit of money – and floor space – in some chunky machining equipment that allows them to do a lot of simple engineering work in-house. A large lathe, a milling machine, and a surface grinder are squeezed in along one wall and, if there was more room, Rod would definitely increase the number of machines to increase the things that could be done on-site. Mapping is more relevant to a road car, but he admits there are issues that go with doing high speed runs on the public road. That’s why he will take something like Keith Cowie’s drag monster down to Bruntingthorpe to spend a few hours running round the circuit and topping out over 200mph.
The other side of the business, away from the workshop, is the distribution of performance parts. RB Motorsport are now UK distributors for OS Giken, Trust and Tomei, all well-respected Japanese tuning companies who produce top-class gear. The racing background and technical backup that RB have means a lot to someone like OS, it allows them to do things like loan a gearbox to an RB customer for six months to see how it fares under regular road use, before taking it back to Japan and tearing it apart and scrutinising everything to see how well it’s held together. And having these choice parts on hand also allows Rod to sell them to a wider market, simply because the prices are less stratospheric. RB also have a thriving trade-sales side, and plenty of other Jap specialists know that if RB are distributing something they will have evaluated it and made sure it’s a worthwhile product rather than just selling it because it’s a pretty colour.
The benefit of this increase in sales is more leverage to get a better deal from the Japanese suppliers, and this brings a lowering of costs that RB pass on as lower retail prices. It’s amazing to see how expensive some things were less than two years ago, and how they’ve dropped in price recently, now that RB have a higher turnover of stock, both to the trade and their own customers.
As far as RB Motorsport’s plans for the future are concerned, the workshop diary is consistently full with enough jobs to keep the team tweaking and spannering on Skylines for the foreseeable future, and even though they’ve been playing with Imprezas and Evos to see what makes them tick, GT-Rs are the lifeblood of the business. And given that these cars are still coming in from the Far East, the size of the possible customer base goes up almost daily.
When it comes to parts and accessories, don’t expect RB Motorsport to branch out into selling anything that’s purely Bling or not proven in race condition. With their enviable reputation for supplying top-notch stuff, and for doing a great job at a sensible price – and recommending ways of saving money instead of spending everything you’ve managed to scrape together – Rod and the crew look like they’ll be sorting Skylines as long as there’s enough Super Unleaded to keep ’em on the road.