YOKOHAMA, Japan (November 19, 2013) – On a stage, under lights and before the flash of cameras, the new Nissan GT-R Nismo bows on the eve of the Tokyo International Motor Show. But it was on a damp Monday afternoon in September that the car set out to make its mark at the most challenging and renowned racing circuit in the world – the Nürburgring.
Four experienced drivers took turns at the controls of the Nissan GT-R Nismo fitted with track options at the famous track on September 30, two laps of the Nordschleife (North Loop) each. The goal: set the Nürburgring record for the fastest lap by a volume production car.
At 4:48 p.m., 12 minutes before the Nordschleife was scheduled to close, and five minutes before rain began to fall, the last of the four drivers on his last run of the day posted the record time of 7:08.679.
Why the ‘Ring?
In some ways, this epic lap was the culmination of 24 years of GT-R testing at the ‘Ring, which began in 1989 with the R32 Skyline GT-R. Since then, all cars wearing the legendary GT-R badge have been proven on the track and gone on to critical acclaim in the market.
When the new Nissan GT-R Nismo edition was conceived as the flagship of the Nismo brand, the team agreed the car would first have to earn its place atop the range before the world would see the final design in an auto show setting. So as show-cars were being readied for debut on stage on two continents on the same day, at the Tokyo International Motor Show and the Los Angeles International Auto Show, Nismo engineers built a prototype to confirm on the tarmac of the Nürburgring.
“A good lap time of the ‘Ring is part of the credibility of a top performance car,” says Andy Palmer, Nissan’s executive vice president of Product Planning and Brand Strategy. “Most of the cars that lap in the low seven minutes are hand-built, very expensive supercars. We have created something that does better than nearly all those cars, and I think that’s quite an achievement. No one is anywhere near Nissan when you take value for money into account. And that’s what the brand stands for – innovation and excitement for everyone.”
Those Nissan GT-R initials, says Palmer, are special. “They stand for Gran Turismo Racing. The ‘GT’ is all about four seats and fast miles over a long distance in comfort. ‘R’ is the race breed, and the credibility of being able to go fast on a circuit. The four seats are very important to us – it’s a four-seater and a very fast supercar. That’s quite a combination.”
Nismo – Nissan’s motor sport specialists – brings years of track experience, especially in Super GT racing and in events such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Nissan’s goal, Palmer says: “Combine the two and the result is the fastest factory Nissan GT-R to ever conquer the Nürburgring.”
The record run was set after months of testing and tuning that began at the Nürburgring early in the summer and continued on-and-off until the last day of September.
The cast, crew and drivers
Nissan brought four highly accomplished race drivers to exercise the car, each with a chance to drive the fastest lap. They included, Infiniti Red Bull third driver Sébastien Buemi, Nismo global brand ambassador and racer Michael Krumm, German touring car (and ‘Ring) veteran Armin Hahne, and a Japanese driver, Tetsuya Tanaka, an experienced ‘Ring hand, himself.
Preparing for the run
The crew arrived at the track to find ideal conditions as they began preparing the car.
“The weather was perfect,” says Krumm. “Cool. No rain. Not too windy. We had the afternoon to try for the record. The car was in road trim. The Nissan GT-R Nismo with track options was used.”
Others taking the wheel that day for preparation laps included Nissan’s most experienced Nürburgring test driver, 57-year old Hiroyoshi Kato. Kato admits that he’s done “over 5000 laps of the ‘Ring – yet it never gets boring.” He first tested there in 1988. He’s driven all the different GT-R iterations, starting with the R32 Skyline launched in 1989.
Kato-san was on-hand as part of the crew. His technical and dynamic feedback were crucial to the development engineers, as they fine-tuned the Nissan GT-R Nismo at the ‘Ring over the summer and early autumn.
He also had an unusual task. He is normally the first driver to lap the track.
“It’s for safety reasons. The Nürburgring is very long and it circumnavigates high ground, so the surface conditions can be quite different from one side to the other. So, I report back to the team on the state of the circuit to prevent any bad surprises,” he says with a smile.
A team effort
Each driver completed two laps. They took turns at the wheel, each with a strategy developed from what they learned from the previous driver. It was a team effort.
Sébastien Buemi went first.
“I did a 7:12 on my first lap,” he says. “I stopped to take some fuel out to reduce the weight. I was on the way to do a lap under 7:10 – it was a fast one – but on the back straight it started to run out of fuel. I got back to the paddock but the lap was ruined. I would like to congratulate Michael Krumm for achieving the targeted record.”
Michael Krumm went last. His first lap was 7:10.
On his next lap, Krumm crossed the finish line at 7:08.679 – posting the record for the fastest-ever time for a factory GT-R on the Nürburgring.
Krumm credits the Nissan GT-R Nismo’s* prowess in handling as its strength on the race track and the road.
“For a car to be fun you need a good ratio between the power and the grip in the corners,” he says. “The Nissan GT-R Nismo* can be really fast with respect to its power because its balance is superb. That balance is a very important factor in the driving enjoyment.”
In the end, Krumm’s run in the Nissan GT-R Nismo* lapped the Nürburgring 10 seconds faster than the previous Nissan GT-R best – 7:18 recorded in October 2012.
*: Nissan GT-R Nismo with track options