Russell@Z1 contacted me a few weeks ago about joining up with the Z1 crew at Road Atlanta for the NASA East Coast Championships where they'd be running the #23 Spec Z Nismo 350 with Brian Kleeman, the pro shoe I shoot for frequently, behind the wheel. I was eager to hang out with the crew again as they competed for a championship title in Spec Z.
For those unfamiliar, Spec Z is exactly what it sounds like. Since the 350Z's had three different engine configurations (DE's, Revup's, and HR's) each one has a power and weight specification. The powertrains are basically stock. All use the same KW suspension, the same sway bars, the same BFG slicks in the same sizes, etc.
The weekend started off great for the Z1 team. Brian set the pole position for the first qualifying race and then repeated for the second qualifying race placing us in P1 for the championship race.
NASA had a portable DynoJet setup for the competitors to use before and after the races to ensure they were below their spec'd allotment of ponies under the hood. We decided to dyno our car Sunday morning to ensure we were safe. The car had been dyno'd at the Z1 shop, on DynoJet also, earlier that week and was safely under the spec'd output but we wanted to make sure this dyno got the same numbers. Unfortunately, for several reasons related to calibration, we showed 4hp over the limit. Jon@Z1 scrambled to pull timing out of the car with his laptop and we went back on the dyno just after lunch with the race coming up at 4:40pm. Despite pulling a "significant" amount of timing out of the tune, it ended up making 3 more horsepower than the previous dyno earlier that day. Again, we questioned the validity of this dyno reading but NASA insisted it was "accurate" and we had to go by it. To ensure we weren't crazy, we found out everyone was reading a little high.
Again, to avoid disqualification after the race, Jon pulled more timing out of the car. Needless to say, this neutering of the car had a detrimental effect on the Nismo and the championship race did not go in our favor. After a brief grass cutting session after turn 3, Brian worked his way back up to 3rd and passed for 2nd place on the last lap. He ended the race less than a car length behind the winner, Jay Pellegrini III. Jay ended up being over on HP also but had enough weight in the car to offset it at the end of the race (each 1hp over = +20lbs over spec minimum). Had he made 1 more HP, he would have been DQ'd and we would have won. This is how close, and nail biting, good spec racing can be. Z1 hopes to return next year and continue to campaign this Z with Brian at the helm!
1. Not much remains of the interior but this was a true Nismo, a Hurricane Sandy victim
2. The sun gleamed off the Nismo Z rounding turn 1 during morning warmups
3. Most of the suspension and braking are all stock on Spec Z cars with the exception of KW coilovers and non-OEM pads, in our case, Carbotech's
4. Brian rounding turn 5 after the uphill esses at the beginning of qualifying race 1 Friday afternoon
5. We found a worn out rear wheel bearing Friday night when pulling wheels so we replaced it first thing Saturday morning
6. Rounding turn 7 on the far side of the track during the morning warmup
7. Headed for the bridge after the infamous turn 10 during the Saturday afternoon race
8. The East Coast Spec Z Championship podium: 3rd place John Baldwin (L), 1st place Jay Pellegrini III (C), 2nd place Brian Kleeman (R)
Thanks for looking! Plenty more of the rest of the Spec Z field in the album!