If you have an Internet connection and an interest in automobiles, you’ve no doubt heard about the 7:08 ‘Ring time claimed for the new Nismo GT-R. Nissan’s in the middle of putting on a trackday/party for compliant media in Japan right now for the purpose of celebrating said time, but one of the journalists who attended turned out to not be quite as compliant as the company might wish.
The Pistonheads folks asked for details on the modifications to the ‘Ring-time GT-R over and above the standard Nismo GT-R. They were told that
The Time Attack car, as Nissan refers to it, car had bigger spoilers for more downforce, different dampers and brake pads, bucket seats that contributed to a significant 50kg weight saving and a new ECU map. Together those modifications could count for several seconds around the ‘ring, but perhaps even more significantly the car used to set the time had been tuned specifically for the Nordschleife, as NISMO’s engineers confess.
Let’s start off by giving Nissan some props: I don’t see the words “roll cage” anywhere in the list of mods. A good cage, along with a seam weld, massively improves grip and handling, which is why you almost always see some sort of cage in the General Motors ‘Ring videos. Nor should a change in brake pads be counted against Nissan, as it’s almost impossible to make a brake pad for large fixed calipers that is both useful on-track and not completely misery-inducing during the daily drive. (Pagid Orange pads are some of the most famous offenders among the Porsche trackday crowd, being absolutely brilliant at operating temperature but shockingly loud and obnoxious in a restaurant drive-through.)
The rest of the stuff probably matters, in this order: The 110-lb weight loss isn’t much in the context of a GT-R but it’s worth a few seconds. The additional aero must have been nice, but the ‘Ring is one of those tracks where having big wings for cornering speed just kills you when it’s time to go fast down the long straights. I’ve long suspected that a Viper ACR with a drag-reduction system in the rear wing a la Chaparral or modern F1 would be a seven-minute-flat car. The custom damping is hugely helpful and it’s one of the reasons that Continental Challenge cars are so much faster than NASA PT racers to the same spec.
Now for the big one: ECU tune. One of the most important parts of the NISMO GT-R package is the larger turbochargers. A competent ECU tune with larger turbochargers can easily yield over eight hundred horsepower, even with stock engine internals. If you happen to own the engine factory, you can push even harder and pop a couple of blocks in the process if you need to.
Does any of this matter? Not really — but it should remind everyone involved that the so-called ‘Ring record isn’t a real record, it isn’t set under controlled conditions, and when all the dust settles it’s little more than a marketing exercise. You already know that, so we’ll call it a day and keep this article short enough that you should have been able to read it in well under seven minutes and eight seconds.