Nissan invites PH to its Nurburgring Technical Centre - and we make a fillum!
PH meets Godzilla at the 'Ring
The cliché about the Nissan GT-R flattering any driver on the road may hold true, but even the most hyped of hyper-GTs hasn't got what it takes to flatter my skills on the fabled Nurburgring Nordschleife it seems. Unfortunately there's now a video to prove it...
Not that I was expecting to look good with 'ringmeister' and GT-R development driver Dirk Schoysman sitting beside me during my one lap at the wheel - although, on a positive note, at least we both lived to tell the tale. (However while I hope to dine out on the experience for some time to come, I doubt whether my lap will make it into Dirk's repertoire of after dinner anecdotes, unless it was a lot worse than I thought...)
Toshio Suzuki - GT-R 'ring record holder
Nissan didn't invite PistonHeads to its Nurburgring Technical Centre just so I could make a fool of myself, of course. The GT-R development team was there to prove the final tweaks to the damper settings of the 2010 model year cars (just revealed at the Tokyo motor show), and finalise brake pad specifications for the European SpecV model which goes on sale here early next year. We were there to get a feel for the intrinsic importance of Nurburgring circuit time to the ongoing GT-R development programme, which is how I got the chance to sit next to both Mr Schoysman and Toshio Suzuki - the ex-F1 racer who set the GT-R's record 7min 26sec lap time - for two very different experiences on this amazing circuit.
The two drivers' styles could hardly be more different, it turns out, with Dirk offering a master class in 'classical' silky-smooth driving skill. He handles the car with the easy grace of a master craftsman perfectly at one with his medium, (which is the ribbon of tarmac being swallowed up beneath the GT-R's tyres - at vast speed) with a deft, insouciant ease that to a layman might seem almost casual.
Suzuki san, in contrast, stampedes around the Nurburgring like a herd of angry bull elephants. The way he unsettles the GT-R by throwing it hard into every corner seems more akin to rally driving than fast circuit work, yet somehow, the sheer traction the GT-R develops means setting the car up for an early exit allows the driver to get back on the power before the apex, saving vital milliseconds at every turn - in spite of any tyre scrubbing losses. Well, that's the theory, at least as well as I am able to understand it - unfortunately Suzuki san doesn't chat much in English so the explanation is second-hand!
There's undoubtedly an interesting story in which style is fastest, but it's a question that may never be officially answered as Nissan remains committed to Japanese national hero Suzuki san as its 'time attack' star. In his role as professional development driver Dirk may never be asked to produce his ultimate GT-R lap, as consistency and repeatability is the key to the vehicle proving process.
You can get a taster of the two drivers' different styles in the extended video we made during our visit to the Nissan Nurburgring Technical Centre - and we'll be uploading both their laps in full and unedited later in the week.
Before that, we hope you can find time to enjoy the video (below) about our day at the Nissan Nurburgring Technical Centre, and if you've already watched the PH interview with Mizuno san that filmed at the same event, don't worry - we're not making you sit through it all again. He appears only briefly at the start of this video, before the action moves to the track.
Meanwhile, we extend our thanks to Nissan, to GT-R program chief Kazutoshi Mizuno and all the GT-R development team for making us so welcome at the Nurburgring, and sharing their passion for the amazing GT-R.