After spending way more time than necessary arguing with myself over what angle to focus on the recent Nitto Performance Engineering GT-R Festival, I think I’ve finally found the solution.
Are we focusing on unique details, passionate owners, record-breaking passes, or maybe some gratuitous engine bay pr0n? Let me tell you there was no shortage of options, but each time I’d reflect on the day that was, there was an overruling theme that I’d initially overlooked. It’s unbelievably simple, but I think it’s a story that most of us need to hear right now.
While we’re discussing the unbelievable, what were the chances that this event would even take place within the only nine-day window that Sydney had no lockdown laws and no restrictions on public gatherings since this whole COVID fiasco took hold?
That’s right. No restrictions, no masks, and apart from a quick forehead temp check at the gate, absolutely no worries.
If you’re struggling to remember what that all feels like, the good news I have to share is that it took almost no time at all for normal to feel, well, very normal again. Yes, there’s light at the end of the COVID tunnel, and once we reach it, the ‘new normal’ will be kicked to the curb and be forgotten faster than you know.
So yes, I’m forsaking the chance to try to deliver a deeper message, flex my (tiny) tech muscles, or to rant (my personal favourite). Nope, we’ll have none of that today. I’d simply just like share a great day out and, more importantly, give you guys a reminder of what normal really means to our people.
The real normal that is.As Good As It Was
Leading up to the event, The Nitto Performance Engineering GT-R Festival’s organisers had no way of knowing what restrictions would be in place, so the show was sliced, diced and cut down. That meant fewer cars on display, fewer spectators, and fewer cars on track. Of course, with Australian state border closures, GT-R fans from outside of New South Wales would also miss out.
Cut down or not, it was simply amazing to be mingling with thousands of other lifeforms in the sunshine. while admiring the sights, sounds and smells (mmmmm, E85) of the GT-R way of life.
It was surprising just how quickly normal felt, well… normal again. But sadly, the appreciation for normal has only heightened since a number of restrictions have made their way back into Sydney life.
Restrictions were dropped just a day or two before the event was scheduled, but even with the short notice that everybody was welcome, the event still managed to clock in excess of 3,500 punters through the gates at Sydney Dragway, and over 300 cars were either on display or racing down the quarter mile.
As you’d imagine, GT-Rs and Skylines made up the bulk of entrants, but the show and shine was open to a wider range of heritage Nissans.
Somehow, with just days notice, the excellent folk at Skylines Australia, Australia’s largest Skyline club, managed to pull together and host a timed motorkhana.
The mini ‘skidfest’ utilised the back section of a car park that’s also used by the Twilight Rally Series. The small field of last-minute entrants filled the show and shine area with the beautiful notes of screeching tyres, howling RBs, and plenty of boost.
As a track layout, it probably wasn’t a rival for a real super-sprint stage, but the tight course presented an excellent opportunity for a little bit of tyre smoke and a whole lot of sideways action. Aside from the occasional heartbreak of mechanical breakage, the massive smiles as drivers returned to pit lane and those on the faces of onlooking punters was a nice change to that dreary, half-dead zombie look on strangers’ faces living under restrictions and lockdowns.Bulls On Parade
The real star of the show this year wasn’t the motorkhana, nor was it the army of meticulously detailed GT-Rs on display.
This year, the event’s focus was set squarely on the freshly renovated and resurfaced drag strip.
To the point where it felt more like an open race meeting than a static car show.
But I guess that’s bound to happen when you send out open invitations to a bunch of heavy-hitting GT-Rs, including world record holders, with one mission: go as fast as possible.
Drag racing isn’t a first for the festival, but it was never really a core focus either. With the level of clout on offer, it came as no surprise that the majority of punters could be found trackside for a good portion of the day. Well, aside from the typical oil clean up operations, but as an old racer so eloquently explained to me once, ‘that’s drag racin’ for ya.’
Outside of splitting the awards into a few vehicle classes and the usual safety requirements, the typical drag format and rulebook was thrown in the bin. It was quite simply just about running the fastest ETs and trap speeds possible.
The simple approach seemed to resonate with the majority of spectators I spoke to over the course of the day. The ‘go fast’ format opened up the event to people with little drag experience, who may have been confused or even alienated by some of the finer details like brackets or dial-ins.
If I’m honest, I’ve never really been an avid fan of drag racing, but it’s impossible to not enjoy 1,000+hp GT-Rs being thrashed and pushed to ten tenths. It’s also pretty hard to beat a day out amongst friends and fine metal after what feels like a lifetime of isolation, shitty Zoom calls, and bad news.
The ‘GT-R Imposter’ class brought a surprise element of colour to the show. This invitation-only bracket was packed with a super-cool mix of vehicles, all capable of 10-second or quicker passes.
I’m not sure what garnered the most attention, the gang of Skittle-coloured Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions, the 8-second Barra-powered Toyota Cresta, or Precision Racing’s twin-boosted Lamborghini.
I’d be disappointed if the drag component of GT-R Festival doesn’t make a triumphant return for the 2021 event, which is scheduled for May 29th. It was raw, simple, and bucket-loads of fun. It also gave owners dissatisfied with simply polishing their investments an opportunity to unleash and blow out those garage cobwebs.
Most importantly though, it gave Australian GT-R fans a chance to witness first-hand the full potential of what many consider to be Japan’s greatest sports car legacy.
If you’d like one last fix of RB goodness, and no face masks. you check out the event’s official video coverage here.