We Survived Godzilla (And Possibly Set a New Ring Record): Our Wicked Ride in the 2015 Nissan GT-R NISMO Track Package

We Survived Godzilla (And Possibly Set a New 'Ring Record): Our Wicked Ride in the 2015 Nissan GT-R NISMO Track Package We Survived Godzilla (And Possibly Set a New 'Ring Record): Our Wicked Ride in the 2015 Nissan GT-R NISMO Track Package
First Ride From the February 2014 Issue of Car and Driver

Rally-car navigators know that when the inevitable crash happens, the driver will make sure it takes place on the navigator’s side of the car. If you’re along for the ride, all you can do is prepare for impact and try to avoid any large metal objects coming through the window.

Passengers are part of the crumple zone; I get it. Waivers signed and insurance renewed, I board a plane to Germany for what I’m told is a ride in Nissan’s 2015 GT-R NISMO. There’s something wrong with the math when you fly 5500 miles to go 12.9, but when the car is a white-hot GT-R, just call us Car and Rider.

NISMO, Nissan’s motorsports and performance division, cut its teeth on the Z and the Juke before messing with Godzilla. In addition to two new turbos borrowed from the GT-R GT3 racer, which add 50 horsepower for a total of 595, the GT-R NISMO has a stiffer suspension setup, half-inch-wider front wheels, Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT 600 run-flats with an updated compound, more seam welding to increase structural rigidity, special bumpers and side skirts, and a trunk-mounted wing.

That’s the “normal” version, which NISMO apparently thinks is only adequate. We know this because those guys told us they want to run a sub-7-minute 10-second lap at the Nordschleife, and to do that, they’re developing an even more radical version that they’re calling the NISMO track package for now. The bun’s still in the oven, about a year from done; they’re still kicking around baby names. What NISMO does know is that the track-package car ran a time of 7:08.68 and will cost less than $200,000. That’s just 11 ticks off the $847,975 Porsche 918’s recent record 6:57 lap for a street-legal car.

To get around the Nordschleife that fast, engineers took the GT-R NISMO and replaced the front fenders, hood, exterior-mirror housings, and trunklid with carbon-fiber pieces. Single-piece Recaro seats, which Nissan claims will be available as an accessory in the U.S., replace the regular GT-R’s electrically adjustable units. The ’Ring-conquering GT-R consequently weighs a claimed 143 pounds less than the standard GT-R.

This, and not the stock GT-R NISMO, is what I’ll be sitting in for a lap. I’m riding with former FIA GT1 champion Michael Krumm, who ran the 7:08. He’s a pro, so I don’t find it odd when he straps into a six-point belt in racing garb and a full-face ­helmet. “Hang on to this, maybe?” he says, pointing to the center console. “And try not to touch me.”

Krumm turns left out of  the pits, opposite the usual track-entry direction. He sashays the car along the track, warming up the tires in the process. About halfway down the long straight, we turn around and accelerate toward the start and finish lines Nissan has set up just in front of  the pits.

An in-car timer starts counting when we pass the pits. The first 40 seconds or so are relatively low-speed left-right transitions that lead to a series of spooky triple-digit corners over hills. We fly over a hill at 152 mph, land, and brake for a 111-mph corner. I’m realizing that Krumm’s driving lacks a gentle cycle; a 174-mph blind corner convinces me of it. I also notice that the car lacks a roll cage and that my safety equipment consists of an open-face helmet, a three-point belt, jeans, and a hooded sweat shirt into which I am now sweating.

The giant wing and carbon-fiber body panels are all part of the as-yet-unnamed track package for the 595-hp GT-R NISMO.

One minute in and I’m wondering if Krumm has mistaken me for his brother-in-law. My neck starts to ache. Not only is the g-loading in every direction brutal, but the Nordschleife throws the car around as if the track were actually a wooden roller coaster with a termite problem. To keep the Dunlops in better contact with the ever-varying surface, NISMO equips its track-package car with softer springs and manually adjustable Öhlins shocks. Remember, kids, “softer” is a relative term.

If Krumm is hitting the brakes for the various 120- and 160-mph corners, I am too preoccupied with the guardrails that sit just a few feet from the track to feel it. NISMO fits a large, low splitter to the nose and an even larger rear wing to keep the track ­version on the ground. Small dive planes protrude from each front fender to steady the air moving alongside the car. At 188 mph, the aero package creates a claimed 4000 pounds of rear downforce and a half-ton on the front axle. Despite this, we get airborne three times.

This being my fourth time at the ’Ring, I know that most of the really spooky high-speed stuff through the hills is over after the first four minutes. The odds of survival go up exponentially from there. Past the four-minute mark, the majority of corners require actual braking. Braking for corners is a good thing. Krumm continues his blistering pace. Even after unsettling the car by forcing it to bite the curbing, the four-wheel-drive system is still able to dole out 595 horses to the right tires to send us hurtling to the next corner.

Click above to watch video of our hellacious lap.

At six-and-a-half minutes, I’m relieved to see the long straightaway again, except this time we’re accelerating to an indicated 188 mph toward a left-hander. Krumm barely comes off full throttle before apexing the corner at 185 mph. A long uphill with a left-right-left transition precedes the finish line. The GT-R enters at more than 150 mph before the brakes dig into the hill. The suspension is likely bottomed out, and the car quakes over the washboard surface. I’m a sock in a dryer. My neck has had enough and fails completely.

Krumm has posted a 7:19.46 lap with me in the car, just more than 10 seconds off this special GT-R’s best time. He’s convinced it was a 7:18. That might be a lap record for a ’Ring run with a passenger. Even if it’s not, I’ve never had so much fun being a crumple zone.