"Down into second, clip the apex...." Oh, wait.....no snappy gearchanges.
Interesting foresight. Because I got to hoon the Nissan LEAF Nismo RC this last weekend, and the snappy gearchanges are one of the two things it turns out that I really missed.
Friday found me at the Nissan 360 event in El Toro, CA with the primary (well, frankly, ONLY real) objective of trying this car once and for all for myself. After the obligatory sales pitches from various Nissan executives I quickly headed to the Performance Track determined to be one of the first to drive, before the masses found their way there. Turns out that I really didn't have to worry - the majority of the Chinese journos in this wave seemed to be far more interested in the street vehicles. Between myself and a handful of hardcore autocross enthusiasts, we pretty much had the track to ourselves for the whole day! I got so much time in each of the manual 370s, I re-injured a sprained ankle with about a month of healing on it. But the pain today was worth the thrills then!
Before I get to the car, let me go over the track. It was a .7 of a mile, predominantly 2nd gear course (though you could go to 3rd on the starting straightaway, if you felt like it). The diagram below is pretty true to how the course was laid out, with a major exception - where the starting straight goes into a chicane with a right-hand entry, the actual course had a more difficult left-hand entry, which appeared to have been designed to slow you down quite a bit more than the right-hander would have done.
So how was the Nismo RC to drive? Well, if I'm being honest, it was a little bit disconcerting. While plenty fast, there wasn't any engine braking, as you might expect. But there wasn't any regenerative braking either. And to get the amount of mechanical braking you needed you really had to stand on the brakes, quite a bit more than I would've thought in a race-car. So I found myself being quite tentative into the corners for want of trashing Nissan's valuable car. Ashley Oldfield, winner of the Nissan GT Academy competition and my co-pilot for the day, was kind enough to blame it on my shoes, telling me that I couldn't hope to get the right kind of feeling in a street shoe and that I was doing better with each run. But the bottom line is that I actually had much more fun with the Nissan 370Zs they had available. It turns out that, on a second gear course, there really is no substitute for a car that actually has a second gear (and engine braking)!
Nissan posted some video of Toshiyuki Shiga taking the car out. So I'll let it demo how the course ran for now, while I see if there is any better footage out there. You'll see that first left-hander at around 1:16 in the video. In the Nismo RC, you needed to be off the throttle and on the brakes between the "3" and "2". In any of the manual 370s, you could blip the brakes and change down from 3rd to 2nd, letting engine braking get you the same result. If I'm being honest...that was a lot more satisfying.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pa12cG5BSmA
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