Monday, March 12, 2018

Attack 2018 - Tsukuba Circuit Challenge

I meant to write this post two weeks ago, right after I came back from the time attack event, fittingly named “Attack”, at Tsukuba Circuit, however I only found time to update the blog today.

This event embodies what is arguably one of the purest expressions of Japanese motorsport culture.

And walking around Tsukuba surrounded by the early morning mist suely added to the theater. 

The formula is pretty simple: entries are divided in different classes (Turbo, NA, Radial and even a Ladies-only one), each of them receiving a 30 minutes slot to achieve the best time possible.

You will find literally everything: crazy aero monster with World Time Attack credentials.

Few RWBs sporting their iconic, exaggerated silhouettes.

A Mazda FDs resprayed in a very familiar hue.

The FD seem to be the platform of choice for many participants, mainly thanks to their lightweight and extremely well balanced chassis. Dino lost his mind for this particular entrant which, from afar might have looked a bit understated compared to other crazy aero monsters.

But actually spotted some very serious modifications, both in the engine bay... well as in the suspension/chassis department.

A cockpit as close as it gets to proper racer car levels.

And no shortage of stopping powers, courtesy of AP Racing.

The morning flew by quite fast, with most drivers attempting their best times before temperatures raised too much. 

This is the beauty of this event: you can roam freely and get as close as you want to the cars and pits; and, if you speak Japanese, possibly also interact with drivers and the various crews.

Bonus, and unexpected highlight of the event, was Yokohama displaying an old JGTC GT500 racer from 2002: is it just me or this looks miles better than the new Z4, er Supra, just presented at the Geneva Motorshow?

Until next time.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

BNR32 Nismo & BNR34 S1

Last Saturday, on my way back to Tokyo from Tsukuba Circuit, I decided to stop by Prostock Racing to hang out a bit. It’s been a while since I last visited and the manager, Takada-san, hasn’t changed a bit. Their almost-new Nismo BNR32 was also still on display.

With barely 9,000 kilometers covered since delivery the car is a true collectors item or, as Takada-san calls it, a bonsai: something that you can find pleasure in just by looking at.

The engine bay is completely free of corrosion and oxidation.

While the original Potenza RE71 were still fitted on the wheels!

Back in the main storage area they actually had plenty of BNR32s on display; considering where BNR34 prices have gone the older generation is obviously a more affordable proposition for customers.

I also spent some time with Mochizuki-san, the Chief Mechanic, who recently finished to assemble a new RB26 for a customer. With over 20 years of experience he must have service, tuned and built hundreds of RB engines and jokingly (but not really) claimed that he can, for the most part, handbuild a BNR32 from the frame up with very little use of manuals.

As we were chatting Takada-san rolled in the service area with a customers’ BNR34.

A zenki V-spec fitted with a S1 engine.

Always cool to peep inside engine bays.

The engine itself is now 15 years old as it was fitted at the old Nismo Paddock in Omori, back in 2003. Overall the car looked well used and maintained.

I always enjoy visiting these guys: not only they are true car enthusiasts, but also very laid back and relaxed (bit of a different vibe from the more corporate Nismo guys).

Looking forward to the first, proper spring drive.

Until next time.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

First Drive of 2018

After enjoying over two months of hibernation today felt like the right day to wake the GT-R up. It’s still quite cold by Tokyo standards, which means denser air and happier turbos, but clear skies and nice sun to warm the atmosphere around created the perfect opportunity for a quick blast down the Shuto Expressway.

While I am conscious about driving in optimal road and weather conditions (and I do enjoy the wait between each drive), two months is the maximum that I allow the car to sit, as anything longer would probably do more bad than good.

I’m very happy with the Optima battery that I had fitted at Nismo last year: the RB26 cranked up right away with no hesitation and, after letting it idle for a while, waiting for oil and water to reach optimal temperature, I finally hit the road. After a quick stop at Daikoku Parking area I headed towards Omori Factory for a chat with the staff.

It might seems like I do visit the place a lot...and it’s actually true. Truth to be told I actually live about 25 minutes away from Nismo headquarters and the short expressway run is always enjoyable.

I also do love watching the mechanics working on the cars in such a pristine environment, I find it very relaxing and it appeals to my OCD.

The new carbon brake air guides were also on display and, yes, they do look very well crafted, but also smaller than in photos, which does make you wonder how can they cost 200,000¥.

Oh well, I’ll let you be the judges.

The rear tow hook for BNR34 will also be back in stock soon, this time offered in two different colors: anodized black and a champagne shade of gold that seems to match perfectly the cam cover of Nür-spec cars. Will need to look into this one.

This time there were plenty of tasty machines on display.

Including a good number of BNR34s.

Besides the usual parts the staff also put on display a not-for-sale, fully restored Group A engine.

Racing engines were originally assembled and tuned by REINIK, a special division of Nissan that was in charge of developing power plants for racing and rally competitions.

Needless to say, it looked like it just rolled out of the assembly line.

How cool would it be to fit this into a road-going car?

This time I didn’t really stay too long, so after a quick chat with some of the staff I headed back to Tokyo, where I met some friends at Tatsumi PA and ran into some pretty special cars. Believe it or not, this Aventador SV is not wrapped, and is owned by lady who had her chihuahua riding shotgun in the passenger seat: welcome to Japan.

Until next time.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Nismo Carbon Brake Air Guides & Winter Update

Nismo will release tomorrow (2/13) the new carbon brake air guides for the Skyline GT-R lineup.

The set, priced at 190,000¥, will be available for BNR32, BCNR33 and BNR34, and is said to increase brakes cooling performances by 20%. Definitely an expensive option, but, judging by the photos, the carbon construction looks high quality.

In other news, I can’t wait for the weather to warm up as this year we had a pretty cold winter. We even enjoyed a snow covered Tokyo in a couple of occasions, something you surely don’t see everyday!

Snow (and salt on the streets) also meant that the GT-R has been enjoying some rest, tucked away in my garage, waiting for better road conditions. I definitely miss driving it.

Being away from behind the steering wheel means that I had plenty of time to think about what’s next for my GT-R as well as my second car, and GT-R Magazine is always a great source of inspiration when it comes to ideas. This month’s issue celebrates the approach of the 50th anniversary since the release of the first Skyline wearing the iconic badge.

The issue also unveils more details about the  Nismo Heritage Parts program, which reminded me of my last visit at Omori Factory in December. During this visit I did spot both the original Z-tune development mule and an actual Z-tune undergoing some maintenance could be seen at the very bottom of the workshop area.

Turns out that it was car #015, currently undergoing a chassis refresh before being shipped to its new owner in Australia. Upon reading online seems that the previous owner had the (bad, in my opinion) idea of fitting a Vcam setup to the car, an operation that seems cannot be undone by the technicians at Omori Factory. I hope the new owner will take care of such a special car and, somehow, bring it back to its original state, like #001 below.

Finally, stopping at Nissan Crossing in Ginza somehow reminded me that, while I still refer to it as the “new” GT-R, the R35 is now a 10 years old car.

Having sat in some of the latest production cars from Nissan and seeing some of the latest concepts does make me wonder about how the next GT-R will look and feel.

Scheduled for a release in 2020 is actually not too far away; all details are still surrounded by mystery, but what we can be sure of is that it will be hybrid-powered. I also suspect that it will sit in an even higher price/performance bracket than the R35.

Call me obsessed, but as much as I look forward to seeing what’s next, I’m still absolutely in love with the BNR34.  
The last winter days are rolling by and, while January has been very busy from a work prospective, I can’t wait for spring to kick the car hobby into higher gear.

Until next time.