Back in April 2019, a South African Nissan R35 GT-R build dubbed The Sheriff blew up the internet.
It had the biggest aero package ever seen on an R35, and even today, more than a year later, if you search the name ‘Scribante GT-R’ on Google you’ll be presented with over 17,000 results.
The photographs above are from a set I shot for the team at 5:00am on the morning of the GT-R’s initial completion. Following their release, my email inbox was immediately bombarded with high-res image requests from publications all over the world, but you never saw them here on Speedhunters. There’s a good reason for that, too.
At this point the car hadn’t even seen the light of day, and Scribante Racing wasn’t ready to divulge any information other than what could be deduced from the images. This was enough for many websites to run a story on the car, but we wanted to do it right. Now is that time.
How this car came to be is a story that began a few years ago. Cobus Jonker, Scribante Racing’s team manager, has been involved in motor racing for 17 years, and started working for Franco Scribante around five years ago. At the time, Franco was racing historic cars, but becoming a little tired of it. It wasn’t really exciting anymore and he was ready to retire.Let’s Go Racing
Around a year before Cobus joined Scribante Racing, Franco bought a Chevron B19 that had been fully restored in the UK by Chevron themselves. Initially, Cobus wasn’t a fan of the little car sitting in the corner of the shop, however this mindset changed the moment he saw how fast it was. He quickly convinced Franco to enter the B19 into the 2014 Simola Hillclimb, where ultimately it not only dominated the ‘Classic Conqueror’ class by more than five seconds, but also took the overall ‘King Of The Hill’ title.
In 2016, Franco won the classic class again in his B19, but took King Of The Hill honours his new Hayabusa V8-powered Chevron B26, setting a new record of 38.646-seconds in the process.
These photos are actually from the 2017 Simola Hillclimb as my images from the 2014 event were lost to a crashed drive. In 2017, Andre Bezuidenhout brought out a 1989 Dallara F1 car and bettered the outright record by two seconds, although Franco still won his class.
In 2018, Scribante Racing entered their newly-built track-spec Porsche, but being rear-wheel drive it had trouble getting off the line cleanly. Adding to the team’s woes was a suspension system set up for circuit racing and, ultimately, a broken transmission.
It was after this event that Cobus told Franco that they needed a new car that could be used for hillclimb and track events. Immediately, the R35 GT-R, with its all-wheel drive underpinnings and immense tunability stood out as a good base option.Designing A Monster
Less than a month after Simola was the 2019 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, so Cobus and Scribante Racing’s tuner Marco jumped on a plane to the US. PPIHC attracts the world’s fastest (and wildest looking) hill climb machines, so this was the perfect event to do some research at.
Around the same time, Dodson Motorsport in New Zealand – a company revered for its dual-clutch transmission upgrades – released their new GT Chassis Kit for the R35. On learning of the chromoly chassis upgrade, Cobus knew it would be the right route to take in building the ultimate GT-R. A subsequent trip to Auckland was made, and the project began.
Scribante Racing had also begun communication with Dr. Sammy Diasinos from Dynamic Aero Solutions, the man responsible for the aero on PR Tech Racing’s RP968. You’ll likely know that car as the outright winner of the 2018 and 2019 World Time Attack Challenge events in Sydney, Australia.
Working with a 3D scan of a R35 GT-R, Dr. Diasinos lent his expertise to designing the most extreme aero package possible.
The built chassis arrived in South Africa from New Zealand just two months before the 2019 Simola Hillclimb, meaning it would be a stretch to have it finished in time. As Dodson’s GT chassis is also designed for drag racing, there was a bit of work needed to prep it specifically for hill climb and – eventually – circuit work.
For six weeks, the team worked non-stop on the car. Given the time constraints, concessions had to be made with the aerodynamic upgrades, and to this end Cobus utilized the diffuser from the Scribante Porsche along with a triple-element rear wing from DAS. This resulted in a lot of rear aero, but not a lot in the front. The answer to this – after consulting Dr. Diasinos – was to adapt the rear wing from the Porsche, with some modifications, to the front end of the R35.
The final two weeks before the event were supposed to be used for testing, and although the car was ready to go, the weather was not playing ball. In fact, it rained solidly for over a week, leaving just a small window to shakedown the brand new build.
Right away there were complications. The engine had injector issues and was misfiring, and the transmission had gearshift problems – not ideal when you’re in a time crunch, but perhaps expected with such a complex build.
Working tirelessly for five days at the Aldo Scribante racetrack in Port Elizabeth, the team chased gremlins, while back in New Zealand, Dodson readied a new transmission for urgent airfreight. The gearbox arrived in Knysna the evening before the event, so it was all hands on deck right throughout the night to get the car up and running.
Amazingly, by the time morning arrived, the GT-R was rolling up to the start line. If that’s not determination, I don’t know what is.
After the first images of the car were published online, there were no shortage of critics – especially in regard to the aero. Many people thought it was totally over the top. They were quickly silenced though, as the car ran faultlessly on the first day of the event, even resetting the Modified Saloon record along the way.
There was even higher hopes for the main day of competition, but another gearbox issue reared its head on the second-to-last run. Not being able to reliably shift into 5th gear left the team with no other option but to raise the engine’s rev limit so it could be held in 4th for longer. After a lot of event delays, by the time Franco hit the start line for the final run – the only one that actually counts for the overall win – it was almost dark.
Despite the low visibility – you’ll notice the car doesn’t have headlights – Franco pushed harder than ever and took a very well deserved win. It was a groundbreaking moment for the team; they’d proven to the detractors that this odd-looking GT-R had what it takes to win, and not even at anywhere near its full potential.A Year Later
I’d been planning to feature this car for a while, but with Scribante Racing running four cars in different parts of the country, linking up hasn’t been easy. And then COVID-19 came along.
However, a week back we were finally able to make it happen.
The track session I attended was the first for the team in months. Since the car’s last outing, all of the previous issues were addressed and further upgrades were made, so the guys were confident of a good result.
This short test was very successful too. No issues means that the car is ready to race, whenever that will happen here in South Africa. Hopefully sooner rather than later.The Lowdown
I’m sure everyone is itching to know what exactly makes this monster tick, and I can finally reveal those details now.
You already know that the car is built upon a Dodson Motorsport GT chassis kit, which is handmade from 4130 chromoly steel to FIA specification. This chassis is super tight and most importantly weighs a lot less than the stock R35 GT-R unibody – something helped by its full (wrapped) carbon fiber exterior.
The front aero features a Dynamic Aero Solutions carbon fiber splitter, and a Simon McBeath dual-element carbon wing up front, which as mentioned earlier came off the rear of a Porsche.
Out back, it’s impossible to miss the massive swan-necked wing. Again, it’s a Dynamic Aero Solutions item, fully adjustable with a triple-element blade. Cobus and his team added the huge end plates for cornering stability, and these connect with circular rods straight into the chassis for maximum rigidity. The rear end also features a Scribante Racing carbon fiber diffuser.
In total, the resulting minimum downforce produced comes in at 550kg per wheel at 280km/h.
The right rear quarter window frame houses a connection for the air-jack system, making working on the car really easy. Fuel is filled into a custom cell via the adjacent dry break filler.
Finally there’s the custom bonnet, also in carbon fiber and featuring rear vents to help dissipate hot air from the engine bay.Running Gear
BC Forged center-lock wheels in 18×13-inch are used at all four corners and come wrapped in hill climb-specific Michelin Pilot Sport H S5C super-soft slicks in a 31/71-18 fitment.
For brakes, there are AP Racing 6-pot units with Vari discs up front, while factory R35 Brembo calipers are retained in the rear. Race compound pads and custom ducts up front enhance the setup.
The suspension has been heavily developed. Öhlins Racing dampers are used, but in the rear there’s an inboard setup rather than regular upright struts. Verkline front and rear subframes also feature, as do Wisefab steering components.The Power Within
When it comes to the VR38DETT engine, the modification list is extensive. The sleeved block houses a billet Winberg crankshaft, Manley Pro Series Turbo Tuff I-beam connecting rods, and forged pistons, while the cylinder heads features Kelford camshafts and oversized Ferrea valves. An Auto Verdi Racing dry sump system keeps the engine well lubricated at all times.
On the intake side is a PWR intercooler, AMS Alpha carbon fiber manifold, and a serious fuel setup comprising of a Weldon A16000-A pump paired with a Weldon bypass regulator, and T1 Race Development primary and secondary fuel rails housing a dozen Injector Dynamics ID1700X injectors. Spark is provided by a M&W CDI system.
Bringing the main power to the party is a pair of Garrett GTX3582R Gen II turbochargers mounted on ETS manifold and running Dodo Fab titanium down-pipes into a single titanium side-exit exhaust.
The end result is impressive to say the least. Tuned by Marco through a MoTeC M150 ECU, paired with PDM15, PDM30 and SVIM modules, the engine can rev to 8,500rpm, with a boost range of 0.7bar (10.2psi) to 2.5bar (36.7psi) on 100% ethanol fuel. Peak power is 1,600hp and maximum torque is 1,070ft-lb.
When you’re pushing power, one of the R35 GT-R’s weakest links is the GR6 transmission. As previously mentioned, this one runs a Dodson Motorsport upgrade and a ShepTrans billet front diff housing. At the rear you’ll find a Wavetrac differential.The Hotzone
Inside it’s all race with carbon fiber everywhere you look. The entire dash and the door panels are formed from the composite material.
A single Racetech 119 Series seat fills the left side of the cabin and is paired with a Racetech 5-point harness.
An APS Sport Line steering was chosen for its simple design and the ability to add buttons, of which there are many. There’s a Woodward quick-release hub, a MME Motorsport shifter, and Scribante Racing is also using their self-developed electro-hydraulic power steering unit.
A MoTeC C187 colour dash displays all the vitals and is paired with a 15-button keypad. There’s also a Tilton pedal box, along with a tiny race battery chosen for its light weight.
The only original GT-R component left inside the cabin appears to be the part of the center console housing the gear lever and start/stop button.
Franco and Cobus, along with their super-talented crew, have created a beast of a machine, one that I know has a lot more to prove.
The 2020 Simola Hillclimb was supposed to take place in May, but due to COVID-19 that obviously couldn’t happen. Franco was also invited to compete in the FIA Hill Climb Masters event in Braga, Portugal in October, but whether or not that event goes ahead either, only time will tell. Of course, the World Time Attack Challenge in Australia is on the radar too.
I for one just can’t wait to see Scribante Racing’s GT-R realise its full potential as soon as humanly possible.