Monday, July 17, 2017

Frozen in Time - Random Ownership Thoughts

"Is it stock?" - this is the question that, by far, I get asked the most whenever I park my GT-R around other fellow car enthusiasts. More than the spec itself, people are curious to know how (and why) my car has survived 16 years in its almost pure stock form. 

Almost because it left the Nissan Prince dealer with a few options fitted such as the Nismo Spec-Pro exhaust, Kenwood navigation system and Pitwork parking lamp and turn signal LEDs - some very welcome and tasteful upgrades.

The only real aftermarket option that the previous owner installed are the Nismo GT taillights: another upgrade I'm glad for since they look absolutely fantastic and are now discontinued. Other than that the car is exactly in the same conditions as it rolled out of Nissan Tochigi factory in 2002.

So, why is it still stock? Well, if you have been following this blog you'll know that the 34 is the very first car I've ever owned. After moving to Tokyo in 2007 it took me several years before I was able to afford a car, resulting in a 9 years hiatus from driving; to top it all, most of the driving experience I had to that point was behind the wheel of a 70ps Fiat Punto! Saying that by the time I bought the GT-R my driving skills were sub-par would be an understatement. With the car appreciating I decided to take it slow and figured out that enjoying it for a while as it was originally built by Nissan engineers would help me truly understand its spirit. 

It's a strange feeling, like I'm traveling inside a small time capsule, stuck in the mid-2000's: while everybody is running the latest turbos and V-cam setups I wanted to drive around Tokyo experiencing what owners must have felt when they took delivery of their cars back in the days. 

Not being in a hurry is the greatest feeling and living long term in Japan definitely come with some perks: being 30 minutes away from both Nismo Performance Center and Omori Factory gives me peace of mind that I will be able to take care of my car forever. 

Almost two years into my ownership I am starting to feel that man-machine bond that only driving you dream car can create: the deep sound of the exhaust, the torque surge and engine pull after 4,000rpm, the 300km/h scale speedometer and the glorious PlayStation-looking MFD gauges - everything is just so right about this car. Call me biased, but, in my very unimportant opinion the BNR34 is one last and greatest analog sports car aver produced.

Driving a proper sports car required refining my driving skills (from a Fiat Punto to a BNR34 is quite a leap!), which is something I've been working on without taking unnecessary risks on the road. Still far from being a fast driver I'm quite happy with my progress. In a recent track day at Ooi Matsuda Kartland on super fast 2-strokes karts I managed to clock consistent times just 0.2 second slower to the ones of my friends who come from amateur karting and single-seater racing backgrounds and many, many more years of experience behind the wheel of proper supercars (i.e. Porsche GT3 and Ford GT).

Karting is arguably one of the purest forms of driving and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to refine their driving skills in controlled safety. It's also a great way to go all out, as you can push those machines in ways that you would never dare with your own car.

There is also plenty of good reading material on the subject and I have recently enjoyed Michael Krumm's book "Driving on the Edge". The now retired German Super GT driver is the last ever Nismo factory driver (with Satoshi Motoyama) to win the JGTC series in a BNR34 based machine and was one of my childhood heroes. The book mostly focuses on racing techniques, from basic to advanced, but is fascinating nonetheless and its theories can certainly find application in road driving as well.

Summer in Tokyo goes on and I look forward to many more drives.

Until next time.

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