Thursday, May 15, 2014

What Happens at ZDayz...

... stays on the Tail of The Dragon if your lucky enough not to get photographed. I was lucky this year, or at leaf compared to previous years. Except for the S#Selfie video but we won't talk about that haha.

This years 11th Annual ZDayz once again took over the hundred of cabins nestled in the gorgeous and always hospitable Fontana Village Resort in the Smoky Mountains on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina with 700+ consistently crazy, drunk, and often idiotic Nissan and Infiniti enthusiasts. I say that with all the love and respect in the world though, these people are truly family and every year we all gather at the base of the greatest road in America; the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap. This 11 mile stretch of road is famous for its amazing views, elevation changes and of course its absolutely absurd 318 undulating and switchbacking blind death turns! Obviously with the Nissan community being who they are we decide to come to this daunting road every year and drink our faces off (after the driving of course).

If you aren't familiar ZDayz is in its 11th year now and is all done by a great group of volunteers headed by my good friends Bryan Settle and Graham Hobbs. Along with the partying and driving for the weekend there is also a great car show, exhaust competition, military benefit run, beer olympics, deck party, vendor row and even this year featuring the world wide unveiling of the new 2015 Nissan 370Z Nismo thanks to Nissan North America

But most of all its about the people. I look forward to seeing all 700+ enthusiasts from all over the country every year. And everyone will tell you the same thing; they came all that way not only for the cars but really for the great people and the party that ensues when you get that many like minded craZies together. There really is no proper way to describe ZDayz other than the best event on my calendar all year. You really must experience it to understand what makes it so great. 

This year I had the pleasure to attend with some of my Nissan World Challenge team and also have the #44 G35 in the Z1 Motorsports vendor booth. We all had a great time from what pieces we each remember and stitch together... something about moonshine that I think I'm still mentally blocking but oh well haha. If you haven't been then make sure you come next year and experience it for yourself, the newbie hazing process isn't thaaaat bad. Thats about as far as my description of ZDayz goes for fear of incriminating fellow enthusiasts or myself haha. See you next year!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

GTA Back to Atlanta

There is one race on my schedule that I look forward to every single year; Global Time Attack Pro Series at Road Atlanta. Not only is Road Atlanta one of my favorite tracks but when GTA comes out to the East coast and shares the stage with Formula D it usually means a bunch of fast cars and a ton of rowdy fans.

This year I was even more excited to race because for the first time I can remember there were only a few changes to the car between seasons. In the past we made many large adjustments during the offseason trying to make the car faster but this season my focus was on dialing in the current setup and working to improve myself as a driver. Having said that there were certainly a few additions to the car and team this year that are still worth noting. Including a new spoiler from APR Performance, new 108 race fuel from my newest sponsor Ignite Racing Fuel, newly re-built CD009 transmission, new (back to black) vinyl livery, new Haltech tune, new race alignment and suspension setup from Z1 Motorsports and a few other odds and ends to get the car dialed in. A lot of people had a role in getting the G ready for this race and I cant thank them enough for all their hard work but I have to give a special shoutout to my dad for busting his ass on the car while I was out of town working with the Nissan World Challenge team. And also a huge thanks to all of the guys at Z1 Motorsports for welcoming me to the Z1 family with open arms and their unbelievable efforts to get the car ready to race leading up to the event and their awesome track support during the race.

With me being out of town leading up the to the race weekend it was a bit of a mad dash to get the car ready in time but thanks to the help of my father and some friends I got the car down to Atlanta a few days before the race to get the car race prepped at Z1 Motorsports. The week leading up to the race Z1 did all of the pre-race essentials and then some to get the #44 G35 ready to rock. When Friday morning rolled around we were more than ready to go, and with the first session being bright early it was a good thing Z1 had it prepped right off the trailer.

This year the GTA race format had changed a bit and the first two sessions of the day would be for practice and essentially qualifying for being in either Group A (faster) or Group B (slower). Knowing the track relatively well we used the first few sessions to get a feel for the new suspension settings and also scrub in the new Hankook TD sticker tires. After just a few laps of driving the car at speed I was amazed by the difference the new setup Z1 had put on the car. It was a night and day difference from what I had been used to and I knew that it was going to take a bit of a re-learning but in a good way. The car was way more predictable and seemingly easier to drive immediately. Also the added hp and tq from the Z1 tune was very noticeable and made the car a blast to drive. But the closer we got to the proper compression and rebound settings it became apparent the spring rate was no where near what it needs to be but we will correct that before the next race. After breaking in the tires a bit and getting some confidence in the car we ended up qualifying in Group A and began preparing for the first timed sessions.

For the rest of the day Friday we kept playing with suspension settings trying to get the car dialed in and also dealing with some odd pressure build ups on the tires. They had been sitting in my garage for a good while and this was the first time I had used this new set. It seemed no matter what we did they would build a ton of pressure equally all around after just a lap or two and never seemed to stabilize no matter how low we set them to correct the issue. I had used the same Hankook TD's tires the last season without issue but these seemed to behave a bit different. We unfortunately chased the tire issue all weekend but ended up finding a somewhat tolerable middle ground with them allowing us to get a good lap or so out of them at a time. With the threat of rain on Saturday we tried to use the last session of the day to push as hard as possible but at this point the track and car (slight overheating of engine, brakes and tires) didn't want to cooperate and left us with a pretty slow 1:39.xx to finish out the day. Knowing there was still a ton of time left in the car we made a few more suspension changes that evening and prepared for the first Saturday morning session before the rain came.

Every year it seems the Saturday morning sessions are always the fastest of the weekend and this year was no different. With the threat of rain looming all of the teams tried to push the limits Saturday morning and I was ready to do the same. Right off the bat I started to shave time in the first session thanks to Russel and Steve for getting the compression and rebound settings better than ever. The car was still rolling over more than I wanted due to the spring rates but I dealt with it and kept trying to improve, shaving time every lap.

Going into the second session I assumed it would be our last since the rain was forecast to be there any minute. I was hoping to at least get the car sorted out and my confidence built back up enough to run a 34 or 35 but unfortunately the best time I could muster before the throttle body began to fail (throttle pedal became intermittent and non-responsive toward the end of the session) was a 1:37.135. In Road Atlanta fashion the weather tricked us and ended up not coming down until later that evening after the race. With the track still dry and unsure if the throttle body would hold up I went into the final session ready to improve and more confident than ever and sure enough I lost throttle response going into the esses on my out lap and my weekend was over. I wasn't very happy to break in the last session due to the simple throttle body failure but I was still amazed by how much better the car was handling and running as a whole, leaving me excited for the rest of the season. Z1 Motorsports helped get the car to where it has never been before and with some more changes I know we can continue to improve the car and get it closer to the front runners of the Limited RWD class.

The #44 G35 ended up finishing 4th in Limited RWD which was respectable but no where near the time I was hoping for. We will continue to improve the #44 Turbo by Garrett / Ignite Racing Fuel / Hankook Tire / Z1 Motorsports Infiniti G35 this season and use the GTA East Coast Pro-AM series to prepare the car for Super Lap Battle later this year in California, see you all there but in the meantime be sure to checkout the video above and visit for more info.