Charg­ing down the Moun­tain

Nismo-honed ‘Godzilla’ re­turns to Mt Panorama

South Burnett Times - - LIFE - IAIN CURRY

EVER climbed out of a car and found your­self shak­ing so much you’re un­cer­tain if it’s adrenalin or just raw emo­tion?

Two words: Nismo and Bathurst. No longer merely a vir­tual re­al­ity thrill ride for the PlayS­ta­tion gen­er­a­tion, Nis­san has un­leashed its Nismo brand on Aus­tralia, and its first of­fer­ing is, of course, the GT-R Nismo su­per­car.

And where to launch it to a pack of sali­vat­ing mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ists? Mount Panorama, Bathurst. Where the Godzilla leg­end was es­tab­lished in Aus­tralia with fa­mous Bathurst 1000 wins in 1991 and ’92.

Nis­san Aus­tralia had been in town for the Bathurst 12 Hour, and took the op­por­tu­nity to secure track ac­cess to let loose its 441kW, 652Nm twin turbo 3.8-litre V6 mon­ster to the lucky few.

And the track is where this car is needed to even get a sniff of its true abil­i­ties.

The GT-R Nismo shares the same pair of high-flow large di­am­e­ter tur­bos as the true GT3 race cars churned out by the Nismo dream­works, and un­of­fi­cially, this 1740kg bruiser hits 100kmh in 2.7 sec­onds.

Hence the emo­tion. And the post-drive shak­ing.

Au­gust last year saw the ar­rival of the MY17 R35 Nis­san GT-R in Aus­tralia, of­fer­ing buy­ers a $189k GT-R Pre­mium, fancier $195k Pre­mium Lux­ury and hard­core $227k Track Edi­tion.

The lat­ter fea­tures the same track-spe­cific sus­pen­sion as the new Nismo ver­sion, but with this flag­ship we have the com­plete works. The mad dog.

Priced at $299,000 it’s a mighty cash leap over the rest of the range, but it still looks cheap when up against the ma­jor­ity of mod­ern su­per­cars with such abil­i­ties.

Aus­tralian buy­ers with the fi­nances won’t care a jot about the range-top­per’s price hike. This is the must-have model – the one with the Nismo badges – and Aus­tralia’s get­ting an al­most unfair slice of the global al­lo­ca­tion to sat­isfy our de­mand.

Prac­ti­cal play­thing?

For 2017 the GT-R was given some­thing of a lux­ury makeover, in­tended to ap­peal to buy­ers more keen on the “GT” el­e­ment. That meant greater re­fine­ment and com­fort, and a ride that was tol­er­a­ble enough for ev­ery­day use.

The faith­ful ticked the Track Edi­tion box or have been wait­ing for this Nismo how­ever; race-tuned sus­pen­sion and all.

The first el­e­ment of our test was un­leash­ing the GT-R Nismo on some typ­i­cally shoddy ru­ral NSW roads around Bathurst, with a dash of wet weather thrown in.

I found if you stay away from big bumps it’s ac­tu­ally quite placid at low speeds. The en­gine bur­bles along qui­etly, the cabin’s well-in­su­lated and by gently mas­sag­ing the throt­tle the Nismo knows it’s be­ing asked to be­have.

As the road opened up, along with my right foot, the fire­works be­gan.

The in­stant whack from the en­gine as the tur­bos come alive is phe­nom­e­nal, while the steer­ing is truly ra­zor sharp – im­me­di­ate re­sponse and so in­cred­i­bly di­rect it’s prac­ti­cally im­pos­si­ble to miss your turn-in point.

But the mo­tor­sport-in­spired sus­pen­sion means if the Nismo meets road im­per­fec­tions you re­ally feel it through your spine. Yes it can be used as a road car, but pick those jour­neys and roads care­fully.

Pit lane pleaser

Nismo’s re­leased from the boosted V6 an ex­tra 22kW and 20Nm over the rest of the GT-R range, has tuned the sus­pen­sion with ad­di­tional roll stiff­ness, and in­creased body shell rigid­ity with ad­he­sive bond­ing as well as spot weld­ing.

More vis­i­ble are the body changes, in­clud­ing aero el­e­ments like the car­bon fi­bre bootlid, spoiler, bumpers and lower front un­der­cover. Red high­lights fram­ing the car’s car­bon good­ies show that this is the Spe­cial One.

Nismo red also adorns the cosy four-seat cabin; the Al­can­tara-trimmed Re­caro front bucket seats be­ing low set, firm and racy.

With car­bon fi­bre el­e­ments, red stitch­ing, and Al­can­tara for the three-spoke steer­ing wheel and dash top, it is a pur­pose­ful but lux­ury-enough in­te­rior to match its price tag.

On track

The GT-R Nismo looks truly at home on Mount Panorama. Old friends if you like. There’s mu­tual re­spect and a shared his­tory be­tween cir­cuit and car.

Hel­met on, seat­belt en­gaged, driv­ing po­si­tion ad­justed and star­ing at the im­pos­ing GT-R badge on the steer­ing wheel I’m ca­ress­ing. This is go­ing to be epic.

The first task is the long climb up Moun­tain Straight. Foot to the floor the re­sponse lags for a mere frac­tion, but on boost and in the fun part of the rev range the Nismo is noth­ing short of mega. By God, the pull of this thing.

My near-fear­less co-driver (race in­struc­tor rally champ Cody Crocker) com­pels me to keep the foot planted over the crest. This takes some courage first time round: we’re al­ready at uber speeds and the Nismo mo­men­tar­ily gets light and my belly does a flip. The GT-R, of course, does not, re­main­ing planted and hold­ing its line per­fectly un­til it darts into po­si­tion at the tini­est command on the steer­ing wheel.

Brake into Griffins Bend, floor the throt­tle again and de­spite the steep in­cline it’s warp speed once more.

Now the real test. The Cut­ting at the base of this steep­est part of the climb seems barely wider than the GT-R’s fat body, and the con­crete walls get fright­en­ingly high.

On the road up to Brock’s Sky­line and down through the Esses there is con­tin­ual need for off and on throt­tle, light brak­ing, heavy brak­ing and flick­ing the pad­dles through the gears.

The GT-R Nismo is al­most like a video game through here: get in a nice rhythm and it can seem­ingly do any­thing, un­fazed by one of the most tech­ni­cal parts of any track in the world.

And you get a quite out­ra­geous, scary, sense of speed with those tight walls clos­ing in on you. Down the Moun­tain and the 390mm front brakes with six-pot Brembo calipers are worked to the ex­treme but show lit­tle sign of fade

Into the greasy For­rest’s El­bow, open the throt­tle while the tyres fight for trac­tion, and there’s Con­rod Straight.

Boom! The GT-R Nismo un­re­lent­ingly builds pace. I nudge the red­line with each shift to­wards the roller-coaster (I last dared look down at 225kmh), and a slight lift be­fore the crest. Belly does a tum­ble again and my co-driver shows where to set up the car for a slight lift into The Chase.

Over 200kmh into a cor­ner is a spe­cial thing in­deed. This car is a mas­ter­class of abil­ity, noise and other­worldly grip.

One fi­nal sharp turn onto the straight and we’re off again. An­other lap of glory and in­com­pa­ra­ble thrills com­ing up. I never wanted it to stop.

Stun­ning achieve­ment

There was no bet­ter place to launch the GT-R Nismo than Bathurst to en­sure a lucky group of mo­tor­ing journos ex­pe­ri­enced true race en­gi­neer­ing ge­nius with a good dose of soul.

To the lucky few who’ll buy a GT-R Nismo in Aus­tralia – prob­a­bly around 30 per year – you have my ut­most re­spect and envy. I just pray to the mo­tor­sport gods each gets to ex­pe­ri­ence theirs on this very spe­cial Moun­tain.

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