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Virginia International Raceway - Nissan GT R Madness

Virginia International Raceway Alton, VA I February 23, 2009

Sharif Abdelbaset
May 26, 2009
Photographer: Jeff Creech

From the moment the '09 GT-R hit U.S. shores, it has been a media darling while gracing the cover of every major automotive magazine. Receiving nearly universal praise, the GT-R has firmly positioned itself as one of the premier sports cars in the world.

Few have been lucky enough to catch a fleeting glimpse of a GT-R in the wild. As the general manager of Forged Performance in Marietta, Georgia, Sharif Abdelbaset is surrounded by Nissan sports cars all day long-including the company's very own GT-R. So what better way to break some in than to take 21 fine examples to an all-day private track event at the world famous Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Virginia? VIR is one of the finest racing facilities in the country. Located in the rolling back hills of Virginia, the facility is green, lush and pristine.

Forged Performance, with the help of Freedom Autosport and NAGTROC, rented out the track for the entire day. Typical track days are filled with dozens of cars, lots of irritating traffic and short sessions. Not this one. No less than 21 GT-Rs tackled the challenging full course, including the world-famous uphill essess that have vexed even the most seasoned professional race car drivers. With two small groups of 8-12 cars, drivers enjoyed plenty of wide-open track and more seat time than most drivers could consume. In fact, by 2 pm, the track had thinned out to just a handful of die-hard junkies. Koni Challenge pro driver Tom Long and other seasoned track gurus offered ride-alongs at a race pace, and instructors were on hand to help get the novices get up to speed safely.

So how fast is the 4,000-lb GT-R on a proper racetrack? Novice drivers in bone-stock GT-Rs were lapping in the 2:15 range, which is still quick. Long put in a 2:00 flat, with a heavily modified GT-R running street tires. Will Taylor and Sharif rounded out the top three with laps in the 2:06 to 2:07 range with simple bolt-ons on their GT-Rs. To put that into perspective, the fastest GT-R would have just barely missed the podium at last year's Redline time attack event at this same track, while competing against 2,300-lb, 600+-whp AWD monsters. Last year, Sharif ran a 2:05 in his 500-whp 350ZTT running Hoosiers! The GT-R redefines what a 4,000-lb, 450-whp, AWD machine can do to much lighter and more powerful cars.

Like most OEM cars, the GT-R will complain and understeer at the limit, but aside from the slow transient response, the GT-R is a dream around the track at about eight-tenths speed. The enormous brakes all around inspire confidence, especially when slowing down the party from 165+ mph on the back straight. With race pads, a good coilover system and some bolt-ons, there is no reason why a sub 1:58 lap isn't doable, with full interior, A/C and all the creature comforts of the typical grocery-getter. This could be the year that the GT-R challenges those lighter and more powerful AWD cars in competition. You heard it here first!

Special Thanks To:
Forged Performance
Freedom Autosport
NAGTROG.ORG
JRZ Suspension Engineering
Toyo Tires

By Sharif Abdelbaset
2 Articles

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