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Racing in a Nissan 370Z: Jethro Bovingdon's race report
Stuff We've Done
08 June 2010 21:45
Racing always seems like a great idea when you agree to it. Seems like a great idea when you arrive at a paddock buzzing with activity and excitement, too. But later there will be lonely moments when you wonder quite why you agreed to strap yourself into an uncomfortable and unfamiliar car and try to drive it faster than all the other people around you. These are the moments you find yourself reciting a terrible clichéd pep talk in your head: ‘You can do it. You’re the man…. Etc’. Awful but true.
I haven’t raced for a while, a little over two years in fact. I’ve missed it in some ways – it’s a truly special thing to hurtle into that first corner chaos – but I haven’t missed the endless waiting around, the mild paranoia that constantly nags at you that perhaps your race will be a bit early and you won’t be ready in time. Even so I’m pretty excited when I roll our new 370Z Roadster long-term test car into Oulton Park and glimpse my racer for the weekend – a yellow 370Z, definitely the coolest car in the production-based Dunlop Sport Maxx Championship.
I’ll be up against a gaggle of ultra-quick Astra VXRs, some very competitive Seat Leon Cupras, and a great mix of other machinery, from a BMW 120d to a Mini to a Focus ST. Not to mention the sister 370Z, also run by RJN Motosport. The championship has two classes and we’re in the fastest group, but so far the turbocharged hatches have been very tricky for the heavier Zed to overhaul.
Practice is cold and very, very wet. In these conditions the 370Z is nowhere. It just can’t put its power down like the front drivers (all that weight over the driven wheels is a great bonus) and is an oversteering monster. The Dunlop Direzza control tyre is a road legal trackday tyre and brilliant in the dry, but in the wet the shallow tread pattern makes it treacherous. I drive for forty minutes of blind panic, eyes on stalks, wondering what the hell we’re going to do in a wet race. Crash or come last, I guess… The timesheets are depressing. The quickest Seat has done a low 1.52, and my best is a 1.57. Ouch.
The sky is still grey but the rain has stopped and the Radical mini prototype racers have sucked most of the water from the track and flung it back into the atmosphere. Thank the Lord. It’s still wet at Druids (a very quick right hander under the cover of trees) and the mickey-mouse hairpin, but the rest of the track is rapidly drying. The Zed is transformed. It’s got a lovely balance, loads of grunt and very, very good brakes. Suddenly instead of avoiding the throttle you can jump on it and instead of big scary slides it’s pretty neat and tidy. I’m still a bit rusty but 6th on the grid for race 1 seems like a decent result. In race 2 you start in the finishing order of that first race and for race 3 they flip positions 1 to 7 so the quicker guys are back in the pack. The other Zed, driven by Craig Currie, is 4th for race 1. Good effort.
>> Click 'Next' below to find out how Jethro got on in his three races