Even after years of it being the automotive industry’s de-facto ‘skunk works’ and the source of some of the most refined, multi-talented chassis produced over the last 15 or so years, the Nürburgring still holds an immense amount of mystique. It’s something about the history of the place, the moody, misty setting which can’t help but send a shiver through the spine, and the knowledge that the thin sliver of tarmac which forms the 12.9-mile course is amongst the most demanding on the face of the planet.
We’re far from alone in feeling that the Nurburgring still has much to offer, with one of the latest outfits spotted using it to the full being Litchfield Motors, makers of some of the world’s most unhinged Nissan GT-Rs. The country's foremost GT-R tuners have been a fixture of the circuit for several days now, and whilst we weren’t initially certain what they were up to, the car they’ve brought along (a GT-R, naturally) most certainly wasn’t slow!
Said GT-R has been bellowing its way around the Nordscheife at an indecent rate of knots, making short work of anything and everything, and all while appearing to be stuck to the track like well masticated gum to a box-fresh pair of Adidas trainers! It’s an impressive enough spectacle from the outside looking in, so lord only knows what it must feel like from the driver’s seat.
Catching up with Iain Litchfield in the fabled Touristenfahrten carpark as the car returned from another series of flying laps it soon became apparent that this wasn’t a normal Ring Trip. The Litchfield team immediately descended on the car check pressures, temperatures and extracting data by laptop before getting a de-brief from the driver.
Iain Litchfield and his team were refreshingly open about their goals and this rather special car, its spec and how it came to be. Coated in a stunning shade of gloss black and with enough advanced aero bolt-ons to make an F22 blush, even for Litchfield this is an aggressive looking GT-R – high praise indeed when you recall the number of bonkers Nissan’s to have emerged from the firm over the years.
“We’ve built it for our friend Anthony Gaylard, an Aussie living in London who stopped being 'just' a customer some years ago!” laughs Iain Litchfield. “Anthony is a VLN and Nurburgring racer but most importantly a passionate petrolhead, and after a brief spin in our own track GT-R he decided he wanted to upgrade his own GT-R but with a couple of key requirements, all which led to the car you see here.”
Anthony’s brief stated that any car Litchfield built for him had to be completely road legal, with a specific clause stating that he wanted to be able to drive it to petrol station and Pistenklause from the circuit (both apparently completed on this trip). It goes without saying that the car also had to be ungodly powerful and capable of monstering the Nurburgring quicker than most anything you care to name, with (and we’re quoting here) ‘a sub 7 minute capability.’ A tough brief, then, but one Litchfield Motors were well placed to fulfil.
The merest of glances at the big Nissan’s engine spec reveals the lengths to which Litchfield has gone to in order to fulfil the brief, with their full 3.8 Sport Engine consisting of a blueprinted completed engine assembly complete with forged rods, pistons and crank, plus some suitably aggressive cams. You’ll also spot a pair of Borg Warner 7163 EFR turbos (the very same as used up and down the Indycar grid) bolted to hand fabricated Inconel manifolds, a custom dry sump system, massive intercooler and MoTec M1 engine management with remote telemetry! It’s enough for between 800bhp and 1100bhp depending on conditions, engine mode and the cajones of the driver, a massive figure and one which brings us onto another of this GT-R’s trump cards, its chassis.
Litchfield has gone town using its full suite of proven chassis upgrades and have even worked with Öhlins to design and develop a set of bespoke TTX 4-way adjustable dampers with custom valving and springs. These work with the flat floor (also custom), Litchfield front and rear ARBs, Litchfield suspension arms and bushes, massive Alcon CCX ceramic brakes and that gargantuan GT3 aero package, and the results are nothing short of mind-bending.
“We’ve had various professional drivers lend their input into the cars setup as bringing all these ingredients together has taken a lot of planning and workshop time but it’s been a huge amount of fun and we’re always learning and looking at ways to improve,” smiles Iain. “The original chassis setup was conducted by WTCC champion Rob Huff, and at its first shake down we had help from BTCC driver Jake Hill all whilst under watchful eye of Bob Laishley, Program Director Nismo, and even Hiroshi Tamura, the chief product specialist for the Nissan GT-R and Nismo!” – no pressure then !
Hiroshi Tamura, the chief product specialist for the Nissan GT-R smiles on this project.. Approval doesn't get any higher!
Last but not least, Iain and his team have put the GT-R on a crash diet, hence why every body panel bar the rear bumper is made from carbon fibre. You’ll also find carbon in the seats, most of the interior and the dash, meaning that this car is a full 350kg lighter than when it first rolled off the production line even with the addition of the GT3 cage and sizeable cooling systems.
And the icing on the cake? The fact that it has a valid UK MOT and is fully taxed, making it every bit as at home on the school run as the track. OK, maybe it is still slightly more at home on the track, but it’s still got just as much legal right to be on the public road as your mum’s Micra.
With a spec like that and the kind of uncompromising build normally reserved for full fat GT race programmes, it’s no surprise that Anthony is well and truly smitten with the car. What’s more surprising is that Iain Litchfield is too, so much so that it really doesn’t take much for him to begin waxing lyrical about the car, its capabilities and how rewarding it’s been to create.
“I honestly can’t overstate just how much fun we’ve had building this particular car or how well it’s gone. This trip was an initial test program and a chance to get data at the Nurburgring and Spa to see how the car performs and what changes need to be made before we come back next year and have a real go at getting under 7 minutes. However the car has performed far better than we could possibly dreamed for so we’re going into the winter program really excited about what we might be able achieve. Nothings perfect but we’ve made real progress this week and I could not be prouder of our team!”
Not only has the build gone smoothly so far but it’s clear that it’s managed to teach Iain and the rest of the Litchfield boys new lessons about Nissan GT-R setup. That’s very impressive when you recall that Litchfield has been at the vanguard of GT-R development for about as long as it’s been on sale, over a decade now. It says much about the innate capability of the GT-R that it still has more to give, a full ten years on from its launch at the Tokyo Motorshow.
One can only prophesize at what the team target as there true goal but something says they have their sights set on more than just getting under the mythical 7 minute barrier. We can’t help but wonder whether their clear excitement isn’t masking an all-out assault on the production car record, currently a time of 6 minutes 47.3 seconds set by the Porsche 911 GT2 RS, is on the cards. We’ll bring you more when we know more…