Sports car owners and Motorsport fans will be pleased to know the name Middlehurst Motorsport is based on active participation in Motorsport, rather than being just an ‘armchair enthusiast’ or, in more recent times a forum ‘keyboard king’. The same is true at a business level where hands-on experience rather than simply turning up to a track day to try something out means we can ensure our customers are able to make a fully-informed purchase decision about either a car or a component.
Although in existence since 1958, the modern day Middlehurst Motorsport story all started with a change of racing class for Andy Middlehurst. Just as the touring car era really began to take off, the Nissan team made a decision to change the driver line-up at the end of 1992. This resulted in Andy changing to a different class and driving a Nissan factory-supported drive in a Nissan Sunny GTI for 1993. This change gave Andy the chance to form his own team and run his car in house from St. Helens, Merseyside.
The Sunny GTI proved not to be the competitive package as Andy had hoped, the newly-formed Middlehurst Motorsport team saw an opportunity to change class again and work with R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R. Little did the team realise that this decision would influence the main business until the present day.
After a learning year in 1994, 1995 saw Andy storm to 11 outright championship wins which resulted in the drivers' championship for the team. In 1996 a change in regulations saw the Skyline GT-R battle hard against the Escort Cosworth but it was not enough to stop Andy and the team taking a second successive championship win.
Success on the circuit began to lead to further business success as owners of the road-going R32 Skyline GT-R started requesting that the motorsport team performed maintenance and power upgrades to their
GT-R. This lead Middlehurst to diversify into the sales of used R32 GT-Rs which, in turn led to the company bringing the first R33 Skyline GT-Rs into the UK.
In 1995 Middlehurst moved up another gear by importing the R33 Skyline GT-R via Nissan Motorsport Europe with a total of 25 units sold and registered in the UK. Around this time, Andy Middlehurst extended the capacity of the Race Department of the dealership and employed technicians to specifically work with GT-R. This set up still exists today with Middlehurst Motorsport boasting a dedicated workshop, service department and personnel to the GT-R.
In 1996, Jeremy Clarkson famously tested the GT-R on Top Gear. Having raved about the GT-R he questioned why the car was not sold in Europe. Nissan realised the potential of the R33 Skyline GT-R (despite being 2 years into its lifecycle) and began to investigate the possibility of a specialised dealer. With the experience and client base that Middlehurst Motorsport had already created it was an obvious choice to appoint Middlehurst as the only official dealer outside of Japan to sell the R33 Skyline GT-R. A meeting with Nissan in an old hanger at an airfield was the first step to the first GT-R officially arriving on British shores.
Although still built in Japan, the R33 Skyline GT-R model for the UK had finishing touches applied at Nissan Motorsport Europe in Oxfordshire. This including the fitting of additional coolers for the engine, gearbox, rear differential and transfer box. Additional items such as an mph speedometer, fog lights, approved anti-theft systems and a Kenwood stereo unit were also fitted. Middlehurst Motorsport offered a few extras, such as Connolly leather for the interior which gave the GT-R an improved interior quality feel. Selling price of the R33 Skyline GT-R was £50,000, with a 3-year/60,000 mile warranty.
When the new generation R34 Skyline GT-R was launched in 1999 the logical choice for Nissan was to work exclusively with Middlehurst Motorsport again by subcontracting the work to convert and build the
GT-Rs to UK specification. Similar to the R33 GT-R this involved the fitment of coolers for the engine, gearbox and transfer box. Along with an anti-theft system, Kenwood stereo system and Connolly leather. Middlehurst also visited Japan to perform trial builds at NISMO and later helped Nissan GB prepare and provide support for their press fleet of GT-R.
The cars quickly sold even when priced at £54,000, with a 3-year/60,000 mile warranty and a Middlehurst-managed pick-up and delivery service.
Nearly a decade later Nissan dropped the Skyline name and brought us the Nissan GT-R. This time as single platform vehicle that would go on to redefine what was thought possible.