You may have followed this story on Twitter during the past fortnight, which focused on Usain Bolt being appointed Nissan’s new “Director of Excitement”, along with news of a one-off gold GT-R and a special ‘Bolt GT-R’ which will go into limited production in 2013.
Well there’s more to this story and an entertaining collection of videos involving Bolt, Red Bull Racing F1 driver Mark Webber and FIA GT1 World Champion (and Nissan DeltaWing driver) Michael Krumm.
We’ve brought them together in a timeline, which tells the story of Usain Bolt’s visit to Japan and his once-in-a-lifetime experiences with Nissan’s GT-R. Enjoy..
The story begins with Bolt’s arrival at Japan’s Narita Airport, where he’s met by Red Bull Racing Formula 1 driver Mark Webber, who offers him a ride back to Tokyo in a Nissan GT-R.
The Olympic champion didn’t need to be asked twice and so began the first part of his Toyko adventure.
Q2. Tell us about your drive in with Mark Webber?
Bolt: It was wonderful. We came in and we had a lead car, and we were trying to push him to go faster in the GT-R, and he kept on pushing and pushing until he decided that he was going to just go past him. So, we had a good time coming in. It was exciting for me.
Bolt started the following day at Nissan’s GranDrive test facility, where he met with Super GT driver Michael Krumm. Krumm took Bolt on a scenic tour around the Oppama track, demonstrating the GT-R’s fearsome traction off the line and its grip around the banking.
Then it was Bolt’s turn to show the 2011 FIA GT1 World Champion what he’d learned..
Afterwards Krumm, a veteran of the Nissan DeltaWing team at Le Mans, described what it was like being a passenger and whether the Olympic champion had a future in racing.
Q1. It was your first time driving GranDrive and the first time to have the world’s fastest man sitting next to you. What was it like going around the track?
Krumm: We had a great time together out there. Not only me driving, but also sitting in the passenger seat. We had quite some fun. We went very fast, over 250km/hour on this little track. It’s just crazy how fast the Nissan GT-R accelerates, so that was amazing.
Bolt: Today at the track, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. I really enjoyed it. I tested two different types of GT-Rs – a sports one and a more luxury one. So, for me, it was really exciting. I can’t explain, it was just joy for me because I like speed and I really enjoy driving fast. So for me to be in the GT-R, as safe as I know it is, and to go as fast as I can go was a wonderful feeling.
Q2. He said he got a little bit scared doing the corners with you. Did you do anything special to give him the full experience of the GT-R?
Krumm: It’s not so easy to drive in a small place like this and show him the limit. So I showed him that you can drive on the limit, and he really enjoyed that a lot. He was screaming and shouting a lot in the car. It’s fun for me, too. We were sliding around, drifting around, and had the traction control off and everything. We used the banking, so the G-force we experienced at top speed – it was just great. He really enjoyed it a lot.
Q3. Usain Bolt also drove. Could you give us a critique of how he drives?
Krumm: Yeah, that’s the funny thing. People told me that he can’t drive and I thought “OK, this is going to be dangerous. I’m going to sit next to him and he can’t drive.” But I was extremely positively surprised. I mean, he braked when I said brake, and when I said “Brake hard,” he did it immediately. The way he braked and the way he drove around the corners was really surprising. But obviously he likes cars, he loves cars. So that’s why he’s driving the Nissan GT-R privately as well. He drove really well.
But the best thing about him is that he improved so much. We did maybe about 5 or 6 laps, but we went really, really fast. And the other test driver was driving behind and he said “Wow. You guys went really fast.” And that was really a surprising experience.
A funny thing happened. I got so confident sitting next to him that I said, “Brake, brake.” And when we went 250km/h coming to a tight corner, normally I said quite early “Brake, brake.” But with his good driving I said it later and later. At one stage, I was almost going to say it at the one point where I brake. But he kind of looked at me because I wasn’t saying anything. He looked for the command of “brake”, so he braked himself.
It was really funny. I said, “Why did you brake? I haven’t said anything.” And he said, “I kind of felt it was time to brake.” So that was really nice, which is good, because he knows what he’s doing – absolutely. Amazing day – an amazing experience.
For the final part of his tour, Bolt met with Nissan’s Chief Operating Officer, Toshiyuki Shiga, where he was officially appointed the brand’s ‘Director of Excitement’.
Bolt’s honorary position was revealed at the same time as he received the keys to a special one-off gold GT-R, which will now be auctioned off to benefit Jamaican children supported by the Usain Bolt Foundation..
But before the bidding starts, there are a few finishing touches to apply that will make the car even more valuable – it will be embossed with Bolt’s signature and ‘real gold’ fittings added to its bespoke interior.
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What if the world’s fastest man went even faster?
Bolt’s involvement with Nissan is part of the global marketing campaign “WHAT IF_”, which aims to boost the company’s brand power (the proportion of its contribution to the company’s value) and deliver an 8% share of the global automotive market by 2016.
Through the “WHAT IF_” campaign, the company aims to highlight products and technologies that invigorate consumers lives – and thereby associate these more strongly with the Nissan brand.
Meanwhile Bolt, who’s been a GT-R owner since 2009, is about to get a new one – seems like a fair deal to me – oh, and of course a considerable chunk of change for endorsing the Nissan brand.
He’s a lucky boy isn’t he?