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.

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