Continuing with the coverage of Starlike's weekend at Brands Hatch, this post brings a behind the scenes look at our time in the team RJN (Nissan) garage during the Blancpain event... Once we arrived at the circuit we familiarised ourselves with the layout of the pits, so knew exactly where we were headed to find our contact, Liz at the RJN garage. She very kindly greeted us and explained what would be happening in the run up to and during the practice session.
The team were due to do some work bedding in brakes for later sessions and even future rounds of the series, so there would be plenty of back and forth with the cars. We were shown around the garage and given a quick run down of who was doing what in terms of each side of the garage. Since the team are heavily involed in the Nissan/Gran Turismo academy for new racing drivers, their different classes within the series were explained to us, gold, silver bronze etc, so they would be on track at different times. We were fortunate enough to be introduced to the engineers who were working through data and telemetry from the car, they explained about how the regulations affect the car and the performance they are allowed to extract.
I was keen to get some shots of the cars before the mechanics were too busy. Being that the GTR is one of my favourite road cars, it was absolutely amazing to see a fully GT3 spec version this close up.
You may notice the names on there, yes this the car that Alex Buncombe pilots, the number 23 GTR. I'm not exactly sure what I expected from the access we were going to get before the event, but I honestly didn't expect to see the drivers milling around the garage so much.
Despite everyone getting on with equally important tasks, it seemed quite relaxed as an outsider. I'm sure it's different when you're chasing tenths! Overseeing the proceedings was team boss Bob Neville, who made time to say hello to us - truly an honour.
While the cars were out, I managed to have a good snoop around the garages and check out some of the sets of brakes brought in off of the cars.
When these came off the car, they were so hot they were scorching the mechanic's gloves, rather them than me! I watched them change a set of brakes on one of the cars in just a few minutes, seriously slick work.
Talking of the mechanics and pit crew, they had plenty of opportunities to show off their skills when changing tyres and preparing the car to go back out quickly.
It was brilliant to see how they all worked together to complete the stops in such a short time, it's clear that they are just as important as their star drivers putting in quick laps.
While the cars were out, we took the opportunity to watch the timing screens with the team to try and fathom just a small part of what they have to take in. I have to admit, I was lost after a while!
I think it's fairly easy to see that the guys were eager to get the car back out as soon as possible...
Finally the beast was unleashed again.
At the rear of the garage was the area for the team to cool down and grab a drink.
On the opposite side, I spotted this, belonging to Sean Walkinshaw.
The team definitely didn't need these tyres on a perfectly dry and unusually warm British day.
In my opinion, the only brand of wheel that should go on a GTR - Rays/Volk - they suit them down to the ground! No matter how high tech the car or data collection is, not a lot can beat a good old white board outlining what the schedule is for the day.
Somehow though, I don't think these guys need too much telling what to do...
One thing I took away from being in the garage was that it was a great fusion of Japanese passion for racing and British expertise - both in crews, staff and drivers. It really was exactly what I'd hoped as a huge fan of Nissan's cars and racing heritage.
I also got an immense sense of pride in the programme that RJN is working on with Nissan. As we know, the world is changing, you can find yourself in your dream job in a variety of ways, the GT academy was definitely a ground breaking idea. Nurturing talent discovered through video games is pure genius and has spawned a new (and successful) generation of drivers, which can only be a good thing.
It also seems that in using this method, they have crafted something I can already see is a close group of like minded individuals, ready to do things differently.
I'd like to close by thanking Liz and the rest of the team for their immense kindness and open attitude for letting us in and allowing us to document the session. These are the kinds of opportunities that don't come along every day, and for a fan of the series and cars in general, it really is fantastic.
Please have a look at the album on Flickr (link below) and check out the extra photos not in this article. Any questions, please drop us a line on the contact page. flic.kr/s/aHskAucoZK Stay tuned for the next part, covering the ‘Ultracars’.