Team Milltek GT-R: More Champagne down the Hatch
Time Attack: Brands Hatch, England
Early Saturday morning and the Team Milltek GTR members were all converging on the Cambridge Services in the usual broad spectrum of cars, a matt black Ford Focus RS, bright white Audi S3, Audi S5 Sportback, Golf MK VI GTD and a Mini Cooper S Coupé - all fitted with Milltek Sport exhaust systems - and the support van filled with spare tyres and the life blood for the GTR R35 - 200 litres of E85 bio ethanol fuel that would be used over the weekend. At this time of the day a Costa coffee and cake was more important for each member.
The apple-green Nissan GTR R35 had already made its way to the Brands Hatch circuit in the very full Redbrick Racing truck as the truck and awning were going to be used for the Milltek display stand showing the aforementioned cars and various highly polished performance exhaust systems.
''the life blood for the race-tuned GTR - 200 litres of E85 bio ethanol fuel. For the rest of the team it's a Costa coffee and cake''
Slippery when wet
By the time everyone met up at the Kent racing circuit the weather had changed from cloudy, to brilliant sunshine but had also started to rain. A decision to run the GTR for only one of the afternoon testing sessions was made and we would be running on the slightly harder intermediate tyres as there was a dry line on the racing line and, fingers-crossed, the heavy rain would hold off. However, due to very low track temperatures and another car emptying its engine oil from Paddock Hill Bend to the Cooper Straight, all the Team could conclude from the session was that tyre choice was either the full wet Pirelli's or the semi-slick Toyo 888's.
''another car emptying its engine oil from Paddock Hill Bend to the Cooper Straight''
Early start for race day
7 am Sunday morning came with heavy rain and low cloud, not what we wanted but it's the same for everyone and we had 3 hours before the warm up session. 10 am and the track is wet but it's stopped raining and there's no standing water, only one choice on tyres - semi-slicks, the 888's were bolted onto the GTR R35 and out it went onto the track to find some grip...
20 minutes later, the conclusion was that the track was getting drier - we put in a 1:04 sec lap and as the tyres warmed up there was enough grip to use the 2nd of the 5 maps available to the driver from the steering wheel giving approx 725 bhp. The maps are loaded into the ECU via the Cobb Tuning accessport and at a flick of a switch whilst on the move the driver can select any of the maps at any given time.
Unfortunately nature wasn't playing ball today, and just before 2nd practice and, after Jonny and Mitch from Tractive Solutions had made a few changes to the suspension and tyre pressures for a dry track, the heavens opened again and the track was drowned out with standing water in the pit lane and over the Start/Finish line and even a small river running across the track just up from Surtees which is an off camber left hand corner...back to the full-wet Pirellis and back out again to get more feedback...which was that the suspension changes had to be fully reversed and back a few notches more but the times were promising and the GTR was slightly quicker on the full-wets putting in a time of 1:03 sec (previously 1:04).
''all eventualities covered...or so we thought''
All eventualities covered, or so we thought, but then the sun came out and the track began to dry. At Brands, it dries quickly and, just before afternoon qualifying started, the track was nearly fully dry so yet another change in the suspension set up, the 888's put back on, Ben Linney from GTC Racing having tweaked the maps to enable the GTR to get more of its immense power down and the driver Rich Marshall was shoe-horned back into the GTR and back out it went.
''Phil Millington informed Rich over the pit to car radio that another 0.5 sec was required and Rich lined up to push the GTR harder''
The difference in trying to get more than 800bhp down on track and 1750kgs of metal to stop and go around corners from a wet to a dry track is as wide as the Grand Canyon is deep and, by the second lap the tyres were up to temperature and the times were falling, by the 6th lap Rich Marshall had taken 10 seconds off his wet time and the speed trap along the Cooper Straight had gone up by over 20 mph from 85 mph to 106 mph but on the timed lap the Team was running 3rd 0.4sec behind the leader. Team Principle, Phil Millington informed Rich over the pit to car radio that another 0.5 sec was required and Rich lined up to push the GTR harder, but just at that time a Ford Focus blew it's engine and somehow managed to lay oil from the end of the pit lane all around the circuit on the racing line and back into the other end of the pits! A long wait while the Race Marshal's put cement dust on the oil and by the time they had finished just 6 minutes remained on the clock, but with the dust and oil no one was able to improve their times so back in to ready for the final.
All quiet for the Final
The Final was moved forward 30 minutes due to the noise curfew at the Brands circuit and, while the pick-up trucks were racing, the Team readied the GTR - Phil and Rich had decided that the car needed to be first on track as the sky was getting blacker by the minute over the trees at Clearways. Rain was imminent but would it hold off long enough and, as the pick-up's saw the chequered flag the GTR was out of its pit garage and making its way down the pit lane. Unfortunately, a Time Attack official, thinking that the pit lane was still live, stopped the car and held it there while he confirmed on his radio the pit lane situation - by the time he had confirmed it the Team were in fact correct - 3 more cars were in front.
The light turned to green and the 15 minute final was underway. Rich gunned the GTR out of the pit lane and got past a Subaru Impreza STi of Dave Coe by the first bend, on the way up Hailwood Hill he radioed back to the pits that is was starting to rain and that he was going for it straight away as he past the other two cars that were in front. Buy the time the GTR passed the start finish line the rain was falling steadily and the track was starting to get wet, but the grip was there and thankfully due to a majority vote the Team had left the 888's on that they used in qualifying instead of putting on a new cold set - a good decision as they were up to temperature almost instantaneously. On the second flying lap, a time of 53.850 sec was posted, 0.074 seconds ahead of second place, but the times were getting slower as the rain got heavier so Phil decided to pit the GTR and monitor the others' times...Everyone was getting slower and with under 4 minutes remaining an accident showed that the track was too wet for semi-slicks and time was called...1st place, with a bit of luck but also by a lot of planning and some serious data crunching!
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. 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 Anglesey on the 11th and 12th August, which is a double header running two different circuit configurations on the Saturday and Sunday...Can Team Milltek GTR get 3 out of 3? Time will tell but one thing's for sure the car and Team will be ready, let's hope the weather isn't the deciding factor...