"Father Of The Skyline" Shinichiro SAKURAI dead at 81. - GT-R Register - Official Nissan Skyline and GTR Owners Club forum

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Old 21st January 2011, 02:53 PM   #1 (permalink)
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"Father Of The Skyline" Shinichiro SAKURAI dead at 81.

Sad to report that on Monday 17th January 2011, Dr Shinichiro SAKURAI - known as "Skyline no Chichi" ( 'Father Of The Skyline' ) in Japan - passed away aged 81 years. Cause of death was given as heart failure.

Dr SAKURAI joined what became the Prince Motor Co. ( itself formed from the ashes of the Nakajima and Tachikawa aircraft companies, through Fuji Sangyo and Fuji Precision Machine ) in 1952, and was the chief project manager on the ALSID-1 model, the first Skyline.

Dr SAKURAI was deeply involved with race related activities at Prince, especially in record breaking and sports car racing, and headed the team which gained notoriety for taking on - and hounding - a Porsche 904 GTS with a gaggle of hot-rodded S54 Skylines in the 1964 Japan GP. Even though the 'fox' got away that time, SAKURAI resolved to build cars that could take it on again, and win.

When Prince was forcibly merged with Nissan in 1966, SAKURAI's team at Murayama kept some degree of autonomy and continued with their race-related activities. The first truly new Skyline model to be launched after the merger with Nissan was the C10 'Hakosuka', with Dr SAKURAI and his team making sure that a special homologation model - the PGC10 'Skyline GT-R', its S20 twin cam engine derived from the DNA of the Prince GR8 race unit - was produced, and went racing. The 'Skyline GT-R' legend had been born.....

Working under Dr SAKURAI at that time were many of the people who would go on to work on the later generations of GT-R. One of these was a young Shurei ITOH, chassis designer on the C10 Skyline and later Project Chief on the R32 Skyline GT-R. Kozo WATANABE - Chief Designer on the R33 GT-R project - was another SAKURAI protege.

Dr SAKURAI went on to become head of Nissan's offshoot AUTECH, and was inducted into the Japanese Auto Industry Hall of Fame several years ago. He was always happy to give interviews, and appeared in many Japanese publications over the years. However he never overshadowed his team members, and was held in high regard by many who worked with him - especially his engineers and race drivers. He will be missed.

Thanks, Dr S.

Alan T.


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Old 21st January 2011, 07:20 PM   #2 (permalink)
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very sad indeed. I don't really know much about this gentleman so am grateful to Alan for providing the background.
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Old 21st January 2011, 08:03 PM   #3 (permalink)
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That's a shame.
A key player in Prince,Datsun and Nissan.
earlydatsun.com
RIP.
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Old 21st January 2011, 08:05 PM   #4 (permalink)
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R.I.P.
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Old 22nd January 2011, 05:02 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Thanks Alan. Sounds like a man who truly lived & worked in what he held a passion for. RIP
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Old 24th January 2011, 10:48 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Just to add:

Dr SAKURAI was one of the last living links back to a group of engineers and designers which seeded much of Japan's post-war excellence. One of his greatest influences was Mr Ryoichi NAKAGAWA of 'Nakajima Hikoki' ( Nakajima Aircraft Co. ), who was the chief engineer on the SAKAE-21 radial engine - which powered the famed Mitsubishi 'Reisen' Zero Sentoki and Nakajima's own Hayabusa fighter aircraft during the Pacific War.

NAKAGAWA went on to become President of Prince Motor Co, where young engineers like SAKURAI and his ex-Nakajima Hikoki colleague Yuji SAKAKIBARA were greatly influenced by the philosophy of engineering excellence NAKAGAWA strove to instil in his workforce. Engine designer Yuji SAKAKIBARA provides us with another link between Skyline / GT-R DNA and Nakajima Hikoki, as he was chief designer of the Nissan S20 twin cam engine ( itself derived from the GR8 engine of the Prince R380-series sports racing cars ) which went on to forge the legend of the GT-R in touring car racing, powering the PGC10 and KPGC10 Skyline GT-R models of the 1968~72 period.

Dr SAKURAI had direct involvement with all generations of Skyline model right up to the R31-series, and it was under his reign that the RB-series engine was born in 1984. The RB was designed as a series of engines to last a generation of development and a wide scope of variation. A straight six cylinder configuration was chosen specifically to return to the old days of 'smooth power' which had been so important at Prince during the early to mid 1960s period. There had been great pressure from higher up within Nissan for SAKURAI and his team to use a V6 configuration, but SAKURAI resisted this as a matter of policy. The new RB was to take over the mantle of such illustrious predecessors as Prince's G-series and Nissan's L and FJ-series engines. When their precious 'GT-R' emblem was revived in 1989, the engineers on the project knew that the BNR32 had a lot to live up to with SAKURAI and his team still looking on. By any measure, the BNR32 and the group of engineers which designed it lived up to that expectation, and exceeded it.....

The R35 'GT-R' may have dropped its humble 'Skyline' name link and the straight-six engine layout, but the use of that 'GT-R' emblem still links it back through several generations to the engineering excellence of the Pacific War period and its peacetime aftermath, when a completely different set of challenges were faced. You can track the DNA of the R35 right back to the Sakae-21 engine and the airframe making of Nakajima Hikoki through the likes of Dr SAKURAI. I personally believe that it's worth remembering that when so many people will try to tell you that Nissan and the 'GT-R' emblem have "no history".....




Above: Dr Shinichiro SAKURAI on the far right, with Prince Motor Co. president ( and chief designer of Nakajima's Sakae-21 engine ) Ryoichi NAKAGAWA centre, in the dark suit.
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Old 24th January 2011, 11:49 AM   #7 (permalink)
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The Japanese Nostalgic Car website admin have posted a nice tribute:

Shinichiro Sakurai, Father of the Skyline, 1929-2011 | Japanese Nostalgic Car

Would like to see some tributes / obituaries in the mainstream English language motoring press, but suspect that most of them have never heard of him......
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Old 24th January 2011, 12:26 PM   #8 (permalink)
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So much influence in the development throughout the bloodline of GTRs, will be very much missed.
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Old 24th January 2011, 02:10 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Thanks PS30-SB for sharing this information.
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Old 24th January 2011, 02:23 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Didn't know much about this gentleman, thanks for posting.
Rest In Piece man
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Old 24th January 2011, 02:45 PM   #11 (permalink)
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It is a honor and l feel privaleged to own a RB, for if it was not for the 'Father Dr Shinichiro SAKURAI'
the RB may never have come into existance. (R.I.P)
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Old 25th January 2011, 02:05 PM   #12 (permalink)
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SUPERB Article and a fitting tribute to the "SKYLINE" man.. R.I.P.
Well done PS30-SB..
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Old 28th January 2011, 04:45 PM   #13 (permalink)
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RIP

Your legend will truly live on.
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Old 20th February 2011, 03:52 AM   #14 (permalink)
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YouTube - the LAST PRINCE 'R380'


0:31 mark and the joy in SAKURAI-chan face, is not only an emotional moment, that is a moment when we all have shared same as when SAKURAI-chan face lights up with joy when he rev's up the engine. It's one of those moments when all of us have gotten pass the last slow car/truck before the mountain pass curvy roads just starts and the open road is ahead.


SAKURAI-chan, god speed.



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Old 20th February 2011, 08:48 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R390LM View Post
YouTube - the LAST PRINCE 'R380'


0:31 mark and the joy in SAKURAI-chan face, is not only an emotional moment, that is a moment when we all have shared same as when SAKURAI-chan face lights up with joy when he rev's up the engine. It's one of those moments when all of us have gotten pass the last slow car/truck before the mountain pass curvy roads just starts and the open road is ahead.


SAKURAI-chan, god speed.




Nice find
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