The plan was to ask Kazutoshi Mizuno, GT-R mastermind, whether he thought the 2012 Track Pack went far enough. £10K for a set of new coils, wheels and cooling ducts plus the deletion of the rear seats has been
raising a few eyebrows
, after all. With several hundred road miles from London to
the Nurburgring via Spa
behind us, we have to say we're hardly surprised; a little less comfy it may be, but beyond that it's not easy to see where the money has gone.
This is the Track Pack in action...
When the standard car has the same 550hp and already goes 0-62mph in 2.8 seconds this was always going to be a problem. But before we get the opportunity to properly broach the subject, Mizuno-san is up and scribbling away on a flipchart in
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.
Drive to the 'ring took in a visit to Spa too
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.
Mizuno better at engineering cars than drawing them
Parts tested here will either become elements of the road car specification or be made available as "customer sports options". Mizuno-san refuses to elucidate which is which, but the goodies include forged brake calipers, a carbon fibre boot lid, additional bodywork bracing, new aero packages, a differential oil cooler - and possibly those magnesium alloys.
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.
Mizuno takes a hands-on role
"Just like driving to the supermarket"
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.
Krumm: "You have to be careful not to overdrive it."
"You have to be careful not to overdrive it," says Krumm. And with 31 laps already completed in qualifying - more than twice the number of the #123 sister GT-R run by the Polyphony Digital Team - he reckons the fact that absolutely nothing has fallen off or failed is "personally mind-blowing".
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.
Industry pool days just not tough enough now!
A dream - until the technical gremlins kick in. All told the #23 car spends over four hours in the pits undergoing unscheduled maintenance. They make it across the finish line in 99th spot, the 104 laps completed some 51 fewer than the race-winning Audi. Durability testing in the 'to destruction' sense of the term.
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.
Mr Gran Turismo and Mr GT-R together
Whether any of this gives the GT-R true circuit credentials, we're not so sure. But the methodical process of evolution outlined by Mizuno-san suggests the mega-Nissan has much more to come.