SCR PB out-of-the-box.

After several years of exploration and experimentation – throwing every single available aftermarket suspension and braking component at a lardy luxury coupe designed for flowing high-speed circuits – the replacement of my formerly beloved R35 GT-R with a sunny 981 GT4 late last summer has finally shown its return on investment with a new Personal Best (PB) at my home race track, the tight and technical Strawberry Creek Raceway (SCR). The new benchmark? 1:58.7!

Is this a “real” “record”? Of course not! To better understand why this is the case, readers under a certain age will do well to brush up on their Vintage Jack Baruthi – back when he was close to my age today – but suffice to say that timing laps still brings its own joys, and furthermore that I have a few notes from my first full unimpeded track day in the new nearly 10-year-old car that I’ll be recording hereblow for posterity:

  • Ran not-particularly-fresh Michelin Cup2 tires with higher (32 psi front / 35 psi rear) yielded perfectly acceptable tire wearii
  • Camber was maxed with stock suspension components and tire wear was even, at least compared to the outer shoulder mass destruction I used to wreak on the PS4Ss fitted to the R35.iii
  • 25ºC ambient air temperature
  • Sway bars set to Soft (F) and Medium (R),
  • Turn-in was not as absolutely crisp as it was with Medium (F) and Stiff (R) that I tested late last season, but such is the trade-off for making the car tolerable on the street. Then again fuck the street? Or maybe stiffer sway bar settings would be tolerable with a DSC box installed?
  • Some restraint in the aftermarket modding department feels justified this go-around. Not only is the GT4 so perfectly suited to this particular track out-of-the-box but I don’t plan to keep in much more than another two years, which means mayyybe another 10 track days? iv
  • GT4 still *sounds* disappointing stock. Thankfully, more speed (and fun sounds?!) are currently on their way from NA GT-car legends at Dundon Motorsports just outside Seattle WA. While I had to switch back to stock headers after almost getting booted from the track for running race headers (with stock mufflers!) last season, I’ll be refitting the race headers in a few weeks alongside 200-cell cats, 3″ over-axle pipes, and “quiet” GT3 muffler with optional downturned “quiet” tips. Fingers crossed this set-up lets me have my cake and eat track dB limits too!
  • Braking performance is much stronger out-of-the-box than the lardy luxury coupe was, but the stock pads only have so much fade resistance, especially when running the circuit CW and hammering the stoppers at the end of the straight into the hairpin on Turn 1.
  • While I loved the track performance of the Ferodo DS3.12 pads on the GT-R, they were absurdly “squeety”v on the street for the rare times I wanted to use it for that purpose. PFC 11 pads seem worth trying on the GT4. What’s the worst that could happen?
  • Fresh tires are also on the horizon! Perhaps Eagle F1 SuperCar 3 / 3R…
  • Hopefully my right shoulder will soon be in better shape after more physio. It’s currently at partial capacity after throwing too many fastballs with the boys without proper warm-up. For shame! But also a pain when shifting the 6-speed manual, and even steering under load.
  • GT4 is just the perfect *size* for this circuit. It’s 996 GT3 performance with better balance, better looks, better reliability, and a fraction of the price. While a 992.2 GT3 Touringvi is still a plausible (and desirable) replacement for 981 GT4, I seriously wonder if the larger dimensions (1.2″ wider, 5.3″ longer, ~200 lbs heavier) of the 992 platform will make me long for the right-sized Cayman experience once more. I guess there’s one way to find out!
  • The 981 just never gets tired of lapping and really doesn’t tire the driver much either. I was able to take on 50% more laps per session than in the GT-R. It was just flow on flow on flow and my body (minus shoulder) was no worse the wear at the end of the day, 2-hour round-trip commute included.
  • The taller gearing of the 6-speed manual gets plenty of criticism from “professional reviewers” but actually lends itself ideally to track use. Fewer shifts = faster times! Also less opportunity to fuck up.
  • With new tires, pads, exhaust, and slightly cooler temps, and a little more practice, is 1:55 in the cards for this year? Or better?!vii

Overall, there’s definitely something to be said for having the right tool for the job. But the biggest challenge is still, in this sport as in so many others, working to improve the Indian, not just the arrow.

  1. From Jack’s timeless article “Avoidable Contact #17: Cheating Nissan, Bitter Porsche” circa 2008:

    Okay, class, put away your books. Time for a pop quiz. It’s just one question, and it’s multiple-choice:
    Which car holds the official Nurburgring lap time record for production automobiles?

    a) Nissan GT-R
    b) Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1
    c) Porsche Carrera GT
    d) Radical SR8

    So, what did you pick? It doesn’t matter. Whatever you picked, you’re wrong. It was a trick question. There is no “production car record” at the Nurburgring. Period. It doesn’t exist. You may find that shocking. After all, don’t the British car rags continually natter on about the “production car record”? Didn’t recently devote several terabytes of hype to the idea of the GT-R setting a “production car record”? Isn’t there, like, a totally official list on Wikipedia somewhere? There has to be a record! Everybody talks about it all the time!

    Sorry. There’s no “Nurburgring lap time record” for a simple reason: Real lap time records are set by real race cars, using real timing and scoring equipment, during actual competition or sanctioned practice sessions. They aren’t “self-reported” for the same reason the World’s Strongest Man Contest isn’t held by having everyone mail in their “results”: because people can, and do, lie and cheat.

  2. And let’s be real, the entirety of this “PB” can be attributed to tires! Cup2 is worth at least 1 second per minute of lap time compared to PS4S, especially on a track that’s so demanding on sidewalls, and so positively rewards a good stiff one!
  3. Ahem, down to the cords way too often!

  4. Lest I go blowing another $30-50k trying to make something 10% better instead of just levelling-up the base car (or getting better tires!!!). Y’see in the car world as in the watch world, there’s “aftermarket” and then there’s “factory”! And indeed, in the same way that a “bussdown” will never hold its value as well as a “factory set” piece, modifying car suspension adds literally zero value and if done to excess will actually reduce its value in spite of the “investment” made. But personalisation be like that! It’s not a boorishly homo economicus endeavour. But for cars used as sparingly as my personal track cars, spending tens of thousands to go a few fractions of a second faster just a handful of times before I move the car on is pretty wasteful, even if it can be a *lot of fun* researching, buying, installing, and feeling the incremental differences of each modification, then learning about what works and what doesn’t. Still, it’s a harder pill to swallow when it feels like the GT4 has such a finite time in the Contravex Garage… and is so bloody competent (and fun!) out-of-the-box.
  5. To quote the Athenian from his younger (mousier) days:

    In hindsight, 2021 may have really been the best year of my life!
  6. “But Pete, why not just spring for GT3/4 RS car for all the tracking you seem to be optimising for?” Well Timmy, it’s because those cars aren’t particularly joyful! Maybe it’s their lack of manual transmission but at least the 991.1 and .2 that I’ve driven are disappointingly lifeless and soulless, whether on road or track. 996/997 RS options are also getting on in years and are unlikely to be as tolerant of the abuse neglect I subject most of my possessions to. Like who owns who, y’know? And in terms of value propositions, a 992.2 Touring (at list) is pretty, pretty, pretty hard to beat, and pretty proportional! Plus I have the connections to make it happen.
  7. At my relatively modest level of skill (and frankly competitiveness, at least in this chapter of my life), shaving off multiple seconds is still quite realistic. I did it on several occasions in the R35!