Saturday, October 18, 2014

10th Annual Z Nationals & AMP Track Day

Z Nationals is the largest Nissan Z Car meet in the world held every year just outside of Atlanta, Georgia at Z1 Motorsports. This year was the 10th Annual Z Nationals, my fourth time there, and it might just have been the best one yet. I know I say this every year but the event truly does get bigger and better every time. With a track day, car show, dyno competition and 700 of my favorite Nissan family members what's not to love for any auto enthusiast!? In years past the track day was always the day after the car show and dyno competition but this year the awesome staff at Z1 switched it to the day before which was great for all those involved as it allowed everyone to relax the rest of the event (aka drink more every night, we certainly are a lively bunch). They also decided not to return to Barber Motorsport Park in Birmingham, Alabama for the much closer and equally impressive road course at Atlanta Motorsports Park in Dawsonville, GA about 60 miles north of Atlanta.

The beautiful 2 mile 16 turn road course nestled in the rolling Georgia hills is one of the most beautiful private tracks on the east coast. It is a relatively technical track with a great variation of fast and slow turns with an impressive amount of elevation change to boot. This was my second time going to AMP and I was excited to return as it would be the first time in the #44 car. Along with driving in the track day for fun and a bit of testing on the new setup I was also asked to be an instructor for some of the beginners that usually come to the event each year. I don't normally instruct but with the 90+ track day enthusiasts that sign up each year they are always in need of instructors. Luckily for me all of my students were great and listened and executed amazingly and got faster and smoother every session. There is something really satisfying about explaining a line and how to drive a car to someone and finally seeing it click in their head and watching them successfully complete a turn or segment correctly with a huge smile on their face. I was really impressed with how quickly they all adapted to the technical track and look forward to instructing again next year, if not sooner.

Instructing is one thing but nothing beats finally getting back into the cockpit of the #44 Global Time Attack G35 around a road course after such a long season working on the Nissan World Challenge team. Unfortunately due to my busy schedule it was only the second time this year I have been able to track the G35. That along with all of the drastic changes I made to the alignment and suspension I was beyond excited to see how she handled around such an awesome track as AMP. This would also be a pretty important test to see how the rest of the season should plan out based on which races I want to go to such as Super Lap Battle.

It was immediately obvious that the #44 G35 liked what I had done. The turn in was much more responsive, very little push mid corner and it also had a ton of grip on corner exit. It was a completely different beast than what it had been the last few years. Still as I write this a week later I cant believe how amazing the car handles now and how much potential is most likely still in it. Of course i'm sure there is plenty of tweaking left to get all of the performance out of the car as possible but boy was this a good start. I only had a few short sessions between instructing groups to test out the car but learned a ton, including the fact that I am going to have to switch the Quaife mechanical differential out as it was unloading far too often now that the car handles the proper way. Be on the lookout for an article about that in the coming weeks. The track day was a great success at AMP and of course the car show and dyno comp with all of my favorite Nissan folks the next day was a blast as well but lets be honest; im here for the racing. Z1 Motorsports put on yet another great event and I want to especially thank the entire staff for everything they did to prepare for the event along with all their hard work this race season on the #07 and #44. I look forward to next year but in the meantime check out Z1 Motorsports and Z Nationals websites and look back here or on social media for a recap video soon along with a link to the MotoIQ article I will be writing for the event as well.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mid Season Suspension Modifications

This year working with the Nissan Pirelli World Challenge series I learned an immense amount about professional road racing and vehicle setup. There was a ton to learn but I did my best to absorb everything I could from the talented and experienced people around me and my goodness I had no idea how involved professional racing really is. Since then I have made it my personal mission to learn as much as humanly possible about vehicle and race dynamics to not only apply to the #07 Nissan 370Z but also to my own #44 G35. With the chassis being very similar between the two models I was hoping that I could apply nearly the same setup knowledge I learned from the success at the end of the year with the #07 370Z and get the #44 G35 to handle equally as good for my time attack purposes.

Along with this new knowledge came some new SPL Suspension Parts to help me achieve my goals including rear adjustable mid-links (spring perches), traction arms, eccentric lockouts and some stiffer Swift Springs for the rear. My plan was relatively simple; go way more aggressive on everything, everywhere. More spring rate, more camber, more toe (out front, in rear of course), more rake, lowered ride height (just enough so the splitter doesn't rip off), stiffer sway bars thanks to Hotchkis and while I was at it more aero!

Now i'm sure at this point anyone who cares enough to be reading this is hoping I tell them exactly what I did on the setup... but for sake of keeping our World Challenge setup and my Global Time Attack setup to ourselves for competitive reasons I will not be posting my final alignment numbers. But I will say that thanks to the SPL Suspension Parts I was able to implement the exact setup I wanted which would not have been possible within the adjustments allowed on the factory components and was even able to correctly corner balance the car for the first time at a final 50.00% cross weight easier than ever before. I will be testing the new setup in a few weeks at the Z Nationals track day at Atlanta Motorsports Park and hopefully playing with the settings on the KW Suspension Club Sports to further dial in the car and see how the new setup affects the handling. Check back soon for the follow up.