WORLD DOMINATION AND THE NISSAN GT-R
£10K for a Track Pack? It's all in Mizuno's five-year plan for the GT-R apparently...
characteristically energetic fashion.
First he sketches an outline in black marker pen, the GT-R Track Pack as it leaves the factory. Then adds further details in red and green. Red takes care of the genuine racing modifications, the rollcage, the 120-litre fuel tank, the centre-lock mag wheels. Green, though, represents other changes - changes Mizuno-san says he's planning for future versions of the road car.
The penny drops. So that's why they're racing in the 'ring 24 as the 'GT-R Development Team'.
This wasn't making sense for a moment there. Surely, the Track Pack is already on sale - why would it still be under development? But it seems Mizuno-san, Team Chief for the #23 race car, is already thinking further ahead.
He flips over to a fresh page on the easel, and draws a staircase that ascends from left to right.
The starting point on the left represents the GT-R as it was originally introduced in 2007. Each step is a year after this, and an accompanying increase in the GT-R's performance. He gets to 2012, marks it with a new Nordschleife lap time - quickly scribbled out, "secret" he says with a grin - and then draws another five steps further on. Following his initial logic, each step isn't just another year, but another increase in the GT-R's potential.
Basically, he's pitching the N24 as extreme durability testing. Hence the repeated mantra "racing for the customer" - echoed by GT-R Development Team driver and current FIA GT1 World Champion, Michael Krumm. This not only makes for a nice sentiment - calling it a development exercise helps minimise expectations of success. But just how close we're told the race cars are to the production cars may actually be a bit of an eye opener.
If 1,600kg sounds hefty for a stripped and caged racer, you're not wrong. Mizuno-san, however, claims this is with 300kg put back in to better replicate the customer's driving experience (funny, then, that it's still around 150kg lighter than the current production Track Pack...). The engine, transmission and suspension are said to be untouched.
Krumm explains he has to sit there switching everything over to 'R' using the standard dashboard controls whenever the car is restarted, "just like driving to the supermarket." But even more remarkably they're running standard brake discs and pads, which are seeing temperatures as high as 900C.
Taken all together this makes for one curious racing car. With 550hp and four-wheel drive the GT-R is just about the fastest thing in a straight line on the circuit - including the front-running GT3 cars. Yet the brakes and the weight and the relative lack of aero mean taking it easy through the corners, or an end to the tyres and the stopping ability very rapidly.
Taking no prisoners
Krumm is clear he and his co-drivers (Toshio Suzuki, Tetsuya Tanaka and Kazuki Hoshino) won't be taking any prisoners when it comes to the N24 itself. And despite the limitations of this road-biased, heavyweight machine, they're running as high as 30th within five hours of the start, significantly ahead of the #123 car, and 20 places up on their grid position.
A disaster? Not quite, because the similarly specced but apparently more sympathetically driven #123 GT-R eventually makes it home in 30th overall, completing 136 laps without serious incident. As a rolling advertisement for the Nissan GT Academy - the driver line-up includes original GT Academy winner Lucas Ordonez and Mr Gran Turismo himself, Kazunori Yamauchi (alongside Tobias Schulze and Yasukichi Yamamoto) - it's a strong result.