Team Milltek GT-R: Fishing for another win
Time Attack: Anglesey, North West Wales
With the GTR loaded into the transporter, the tyres, spare parts, tools and provisions loaded into the Milltek support van, and the Milltek Audi S5 polished and fuelled the trip west to Anglesey started just after lunch on Friday afternoon, in rare, but very welcomed, glorious sunshine.
As the Team arrived at the picturesque Welsh race circuit perched right on the edge of the Irish Sea with the stunning hills of Snowdonia in the background the sun was just starting its slow decent to the west after beating down on the black tarmac of the track all day so a 'track walk' was agreed to fully appreciate the rise and falls of the track and to look closely at turn in points, apexes and run off areas. There is so much that is missed when driving a car fast on circuit and in-car videos don't give you the elevation changes that a track like Anglesey has and you appreciate when walking.
On the Saturday, the Time Attack series was using the International Circuit and on Sunday they would mix it up by switching to the Coastal Circuit.With every metre of the course fully analysed and the Team Milltek bright green GTR R-35 put away in the pit garage, the Team headed for the hotel knowing a long, hard weekend was ahead, especially because although the sun was shining now, the forecast for Saturday was changing and rain was on the cards for Sunday. Two completely different configurations of the Anglesey track to run over the weekend with two very different weather conditions.
''Two completely different configurations of the Anglesey track to run over the weekend with two very different weather conditions''
Saturday - Round 4: International Circuit
Round 4: Practice
Saturday came with an early morning haze which soon cleared by the time warm up and practice had been completed on the 2.1 mile, full International Circuit and the consensus was that the car was running beautifully but everything was getting very hot very quickly. Thankfully, it was able to cool quicker than ever before with a few moderated slower laps. So the stage was set for qualifying and the final after lunch and the sun was beating down on the spectators and the track and had dispersed any form of cloud in the sky.
''high temperatures would cause the GTR problems in the 20 minute session''
Round 4: Qualifying
As the afternoon 20 minute qualifying session started, the Team driver, Rich Marshall in the GTR R-35, let the other cars out onto the track first knowing that the high temperatures would cause the GTR problems in the 20 minute session. So, as they left the pit lane, the GTR slotted on to the back of the pack and gave everyone some space in front.
Within the first out-lap, the GTR's fluids and tyres were up to optimum operating temperature and a first flying lap was put in to get a feel for grip and to put a time on the board. Rich dropped back from the cars in front and went for it. Down the back straight, which is actually a long curve, the car's weight wants to push the car off the road and into the tyre wall which is not that far away, so balance is important as well as speed, and a nice balance and consistent speed over the lap saw a time of 1:37.863.
Instantly over the start/finish line the car was backed off for a cool down lap to let the temps settle and then followed by another flying lap, which was slightly slower. Another couple of slower laps to bring the temps down further and the request over the pit to car radio from Team Principle - Phil Millington was 'one more quick one please' and Rich prepared himself for a last big push. The lap was completed in 1:37.380 (-0.483 secs quicker) and was quick enough for top slot - 50 points were in the bag!With the final session only 45 minutes away, the GTR would still be warm when it went out so after a full team meeting, it was a unanimous decision that a two to three hot lap strategy was going to be most effective.
''Knowing that he only had 2-3 laps, Rich was trying to be as smooth as possible''
Round 4: Final
As the final 15 minute session started the green GTR R-35 sat in the pit lane as all the other cars headed for the track...3 laps went by before Phil told Rich he could go, and by that time most cars were coming back into the pit lane so the track was virtually clear. After a quick wiggle down the back-straight warmed up the tyres and by the time the car got to the start-line they were ready to go. Knowing that he only had 2-3 laps, Rich was trying to be as smooth as possible as well as going as fast as he could, however coming through Church the corner leading onto the back straight a slower car was going to get in the way, back off or go for it? Rich chose the latter and just before the Rocket complex, a 100 degree left-hander leading into a hairpin-right, the overtaking manoeuvre was completed on the left hand side which compromised the turn-in. By the time the car exited the hairpin; another car was ahead but moved over to the right - not hindering the progress of the GTR.
Down the infamous hill and into the tight off-camber-left and along the Tom Pryce Straight, the speed of the car is immense, hard on the brakes with tyres chirping their complaints...into another hairpin, the track was clear and the mighty bhp of the GTR was fully called to use...sharp-left and over the line, flat-out in a time of 1:36.506 (-0.874 seconds faster than in qualifying) putting Team Milltek in 1st position. Onto the second flying lap without taking a breath and another slower car was at the same point where the overtaking manoeuvre was conducted on the last lap...but obligingly they moved over to let the GTR passed, completing the lap...and over the line again with a time of 1:36.825 (+0.319 seconds slower). Time was called on the session as temps had risen close to the red indicators so two cool-down laps and back to the pits. The session finished and Team Milltek GTR had there 3rd straight win in succession beating close rival Ben Shimmin in his Subaru Impreza WRX STi by just over a second.
Sunday - Round 5: Coastal Circuit
Up early for the Sunday morning trip back to the circuit and it's raining. Not too heavily but slightly colder and wetter than yesterday.
The Costal Circuit is shorter at 1.55 miles and has the famous 'Cork Screw' which, coming down the hill, is an off-camber-left, right, left complex which does not suit the heavy GTR, especially in the wet.
Out in the warm-up to check levels and the mapping data log showed that, being cooler and slightly damp, a tweak on the mapping was required and, because of the lack of internet connectivity, we were unable to make the second of the morning's outings, which was a bit fortuitous as the track was soaking wet after a heavy shower.
However, by the afternoon qualifying session, the map was loaded and all ready to go. The track was damp in places but there was a complete dry line so the GTR was wheeled out and Rich Marshall was put back into the driving seat.
Round 5: Qualifying
With Saturday's data analysed, studied and memorised the night before, Rich decided that the GTR would lose time through the Corkscrew complex, and with no long straights to claw back time, a faster speed along the back-straight was needed to try and make up time. He set about upping the pace and was fastest through the speed trap in qualifying. Unfortunately with extra speed brings other problems, and carrying that much more speed meant that the GTR was going far too fast before being able to hit the brakes into the Rocket complex. This meant it wouldn't turn in and ran wide of the apex - making the second phase of the complex difficult. The best time for the session was 1:16.322 (+1.6 secs) slower than fastest man Ben Shimmin in the Pro-R Subaru).
An after-session de-brief and team discussion led to the conclusion this track configuration wasn't going to be kind to the GTR and the only way to get round this was smooth steady driving and just getting onto the podium was the best we could hope for. Each corner flows into another corner so, get one wrong, and you might as well stop and start again...
Round 5: Final
Phil Millington, the Team Principle and Rich Marshall, the GTR's driver, had a few quiet words in private and a major decision was reached. Rich wanted to only go out for 2 hot laps, as he thought that if a good time had not been recorded by then it probably wasn't going to happen. The other big decision was not to go out until 7 minutes had elapsed into the final 15 minute session. This can work against a car and driver because, if there's an accident or oil has been spilled, then the track will be worse at the end of the session than at the start. He put his case forward and an agreement was reached...2 hot laps it is.
''The top 3 cars split by only 0.026 second!''
The cars lined up in the pit lane and no green GTR was there. The lights turned to green and the rest of the cars drove onto the track but the green GTR was still in the pit garage, driver inside but with the engine switched off.
The minutes ticked by, and as Phil signalled Rich...6 minutes into the session...the GTR roared into life...The message over the pit-to-car radio was 'clear to go' and the GTR left the pits. Due to the short period of time between qualification and the final, the tyres are still warm and in only half a lap they were up to optimal temperature. Over the start/finish line and the GTR was gunned into the first corner, letting it run wide before straightening it up to apply the brakes into the first hairpin then round and back on the power feathering the throttle for Church corner before pushing the GTR up through the gears along the back straight. However, unlike the qualifying session, it was smoother and more controlled, making sure the braking point was spotted and the turn-in point into the Rocket complex was nailed.
Both were completed as desired and then down the hill to the Corkscrew, where a new line was used, turn in slightly earlier and hug the right-hand side until turning left later to get more of the power down to cross the start/finish line as fast as possible.
Carrying on to the second hot lap the message came over the radio, 'pit next lap'! The message was confirmed by the driver and then coming down to the Corkscrew Phil said over the radio, 'I don't know how to tell you this but your in first place' a 1:15.210 - (-0.014 secs) ahead of second place Ben Shimmin. In the pits, the last few minutes ticked away and then he chequered flag went out. The final was over and it turned out to be one of the closest results in Time Attack history. The top 3 cars split by only 0.026 second!
Four wins in a row for Team Milltek GTR not a bad first season so far! So the car and equipment were packed up, trophy collected and off home - stopping for some food and a laugh over the whole weekend, and possibly future plans but that will be a discussion for after the next double-header Time Attack at Snetterton on the 22nd and 23rd of September.
The Forgotten Heroes
The regular Team Milltek GTR followers amongst you may have noticed that there's been no mention of the fabled gearbox that's been causing problems all season...that's simply because Litchfield Imports, the world-renowned GT-R specialists, who dug deep into their workshop time to get our gearbox rebuilt in time the Brands round, seem to have given us exactly what we wanted, a gearbox/clutch set-up that works without overheating. It's been faultless here at Anglesey and long may it continue that way!
We can't make mention of the new gearbox without also mentioning that the car runs an off-the-shelf 90mm exhaust system from Milltek Sport. This system has been running flawlessly since day one. It's allowed us to pass all noise-regulations, handles the full 900bhp when needed, been relentlessly abused on tracks all across Europe and, even been subjected to all sorts of various fuel types and qualities and not even battered an eyelid - the fact that there are many of these systems fitted to Nissan GT-R R35 owners' daily-drivers all across the World is just another feather in Milltek Sport's "quality and reliability cap".
Next up will be Snetterton on the 22nd and 23rd September, which is a double header...Can Team Milltek GTR get 4 out of 4? Time will tell but one thing's for sure the car and Team will be ready for it...