There are two ways of looking at the new GT-R Nismo’s performance – as per Nissan’s press release “it’s the fastest volume production car around the Nürburgring”, although it seems a mute point to describe a £130,000 limited edition race-inspired car as ‘volume’.
The second way of looking at its performance is as the second fastest road car to lap the Nürburgring – less than 12 seconds slower than the £700,000 Porsche 918 Spyder which set the benchmark time of 6 minutes 57 seconds in September.
Either way, Nissan have been raining on Porsche’s parade ever since the GT-R first turned a wheel in 2007.
Last year at the launch of the Nismo brand, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn announced they’d produce an extreme version of the GT-R which would define the Nismo experience.
The standard car has been updated for 2014 with a recalibrated suspension, LED headlights and revised front and rear design. Otherwise it features the same 542bhp 3.8-litre V6 engine delivering blisteringly fast performance and limpet-like road-holding. For the GT-R Nismo engine power has risen to 591 bhp with 481 lb-ft (652 Nm) of torque.
542bhp was good enough back in 2012 for a Nürburgring lap of 7:19.10, so how exactly did Nissan strip another 11 seconds off that performance with the GT-R Nismo?
At the ‘ring
The standard car’s time was set by factory driver Toshio Suzuki, but this time Nissan pulled out all the stops.
On hand were four highly accomplished race drivers including Infiniti Red Bull third driver Sébastien Buemi, Nismo brand ambassador and racer Michael Krumm, German touring car veteran Armin Hahne, and a Japanese driver, Tetsuya Tanaka.
The time was set on a damp Monday afternoon in September using a GT-R Nismo with track options including tuned aerodynamics and suspension settings and less weight.
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 – to be sure of the road surface condition as it is a very long circuit,” he says with a smile.
Each driver completed two laps. They took turns at the wheel, each with a strategy developed from what they learned from the previous driver.
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.”
Armin Hahne and Tetsuya Tanaka followed.
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.
“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.”
His record lap was set at 4:48 pm, 12 minutes before the Nordschleife was scheduled to close, and five minutes before rain began to fall.
“We had a fantastic time attacking the Nürburgring. I had so much fun out there,” said Michael Krumm.
“The car gave me so much confidence, but also it is really enjoyable. The Nissan GT-R Nismo is a really engaging, rewarding car and, of course, super-super-fast.”
“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.”
The GT-R Nismo features a host of developments including the same high-flow, large diameter turbochargers used in GT3 racing. Ignition timing is optimised for each cylinder and the fuel pump upgraded to improve combustion.
The chassis was inspired by that of the Nismo racing GT-R, and tuned for stability, road holding and handling finesse. Custom-developed Bilstein DampTronic dampers and springs were specially tuned to deliver exceptional grip combined with progressive handling at the limit, while three driver-selectable suspension modes are available including Comfort, Normal and R – for circuit use.
Dunlop developed an exclusive set of tyres for the GT-R Nismo in 255/40 ZRF20 (front) and 285/35 ZRF20 (rear) sizes, while specially-developed links are fitted to the front double wishbone suspension to increase castor and optimise wheel position during high-G cornering.
To handle the very high-G forces, large high-rigidity bolts are used to increase stiffness of the wheel-hub attachment area. Also the GT-R’s body shell is more rigid thanks to the use of adhesive bonding in addition to spot welding, leading to more precise suspension response under extreme loading.
Finally, a hollow 17.3 mm rear anti-roll bar increases stiffness while reducing weight, helping to minimise body-roll during cornering and changes of direction.
Nismo optimised aerodynamics increase downforce while minimising drag – together, the front bumper, engine undercover strake and carbon rear spoiler increase downforce by 100kg compared to the recently updated 2014 GT-R, yet drag remains the same with a Cd of 0.26.
Buying the GT-R Nismo..
UK pricing has yet to be announced, but expect to pay around £130,000 when the GT-R Nismo goes on sale in Japan from February 2014 and the U.S. and Europe from later in 2014.
It will be available in five body colours: Brilliant White Pearl, Meteor Flake Pearl Black, Ultimate Metallic Silver, Vibrant Red and Dark Matte Grey – a colour unique to the GT-R Nismo which accentuates its imposing muscularity.