Words: Dave Pratte
Images: Front Street Partner Speed Academy
Sasha Anis from OnPoint Dyno had a dream, but it wasn’t a dream like Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream about improving civil rights, or an Elon Musk dream about colonizing Mars. No, Sasha’s dream was a little more down-to-earth. Even so, it still required years of research and development along with a healthy dose of determination if not downright stubbornness to achieve the goal set forth in his plan.
That’s because his dream is to turn this 2003 Nissan 350Z into a speed machine capable of matching the lap times of American Le Mans GT2 class race cars like the legendary Ferrari 430 GTC, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR and BMW M3 GT around the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (Mosport) circuit.
“Back in 2008 when I set this goal for myself, the fastest ALMS GT2 cars were doing 1-minute 18-second laps at Mosport. Those cars really inspired me with their incredibly clean aero and high-revving, naturally-aspirated powerplants [producing around 470-bhp],” says Anis.
Anis was already an accomplished road racer when he acquired the Z, having won a championship in the Canadian Touring Car Championship in a Nissan 240SX S14. Wanting to step up to the next level, he bought this well-used 350Z from a Grand-Am Koni Challenge team for a song, then ran it in two Koni weekends before realizing the cost of fielding a competitive car in this series was more than his wallet could handle.
Rather than sulking about the harsh financial realities of pro racing, Sasha quickly refocused on his new and arguably far more interesting dream of transforming what was a pretty basic and close to stock GS class race car into a totally unique speed machine capable of turning ALMS GT2 class lap times at big boy tracks like Mosport.
Koni GS cars weren’t allowed to run any significant aero upgrades, so the first thing Sasha did in pursuit of the super-low 1:18 lap times he sought at Mosport was to build a custom front splitter and install a big GT rear wing from DJ Engineering. In addition, he purchased a set of faster tires and lightened the 350 substantially by using time-honored weight reduction tricks. This immediately knocked 5 seconds off the Z’s lap time, from a 1:33.6 result in Koni trim to a best circuit of 1:28.5, but that meant there was still ten seconds to find to satisfy his quest. No small feat, to say the least.
From there, he began an intensive engine development program based around the VQ35DE engine in the Z, including the process of designing and manufacturing his own SG-Motorsport long-tube headers and intake system, using Jenvey individual throttle bodies as a base for the induction system. By revving to 9,000 rpm and playing a soundtrack that would make Jimi Hendrix gently weep, with ported heads, JWT cams and a bump in compression he’s managed to pull an incredible 372 wheel horsepower out of VQ35DE block.
With the knowledge that he’d need another 100 horsepower to make his dream a reality, he bought a junkyard VQ35HR engine for its superior airflow characteristics, then rewired the Z to permit its use. Using a VQ37HR crankshaft to bring displacement up to 3.7-liters and JWT-designed JE pistons to raise compression up to 12.3:1, then adding JWT camshafts and valve springs, R35 GT-R rod bolts, a Dailey Engineering dry sump oiling system, and custom C3 Composites carbon fiber airboxes to shield the ITBs from hot engine bay air, engine output was now up to an unheard-of 420 wheel horsepower.
Since the primary business at Anis’ OnPoint Dyno facility is custom ECU calibration, it should come as no surprise that a MoTeC M800 system is used for engine management, along with one of MoTeC’s PDM15 units for power distribution, and an ADL2 digital dash designed to keep tabs on engine vitals while he’s behind the wheel.
There’s a lot more high-level electronic wizardry going on beneath the Z’s skin, too, including damper position sensors that help to dial in the Koni 2822 4-way adjustable race shocks for maximum grip on the second-hand Michelin or Pirelli slicks he normally uses.
By the end of 2015, lap times had been reduced to an amazing 1:22.8, thanks to further refinement of the car’s aerodynamics and a fresh set of slicks. But where would Anis find 4 more seconds to get down to that ALMS GT2 pace of 1:18? For starters, he teamed up with Quaife Engineering, a world leader in sequential gearbox technology, and equipped his 350 with one of their 69G transmissions.
And in typical OnPoint fashion, he then designed and built his own custom shifter lever with a strain gauge linked to the MoTeC ECU for seamless no-lift shifting.
He also decided the car needed more mechanical and aerodynamic grip, so the stock fenders were put under the knife in order to fit up Rocket Bunny front over fenders and Crown Carbon Crafting rear over fenders.
This meant he could now fit 18×12-inch Volk Racing ZE40 wheels (up from 10.5-inch-wide wheels) wrapped in 325 wide slicks (up from 275’s). This puts the Z’s track width and tire size much closer to the ALMS GT2 race cars he’s gunning for. Front braking is handled by StopTech ST-40 front calipers and a set of the company’s AeroRotors measuring 332 x 32 mm. In the rear, the OE 350Z calipers are used, again with a set of StopTech AeroRotors, while Project Mu Club Racer brake pads are installed at all four corners to provide friction.
He also enlisted the help of Kevin Stittle from C3 Composites to build a new and much larger carbon fiber front splitter and front bumper extensions to smooth airflow around the wider front fenders and wheels. There are also C3 carbon doors and roof skin now in place, along with a Seibon carbon rear hatch, all wrapped up in a metallic green wrap from Avery and applied by the guys at C17 Media.
Interested in seeing video on this unique build? Check out the Speed Academy take on the OnPoint Dyno machine right here:
In limited testing, the wider setup hasn’t proven to be quicker yet, but he feels there’s still a lot of untapped potential to extract with revised spring rates and fresh dampers. It’s also too early to tell as he has yet to run on new tires with the current setup.
As is often the case when developing new engine parts, the VQ35HR has gone backwards a bit recently in terms of power output; the experimental larger 57mm throttles have reduced peak power from 420 wheel horsepower to 385 wheel horsepower. However, with additional cylinder head porting and changes to the exhaust manifold, he’s aiming to increase engine output to an ALMS GT2-competitive 460 wheel horsepower. Anis feels the larger throttles are part of the recipe necessary to get him there.
What’s next in this Z’s relentless pursuit of a 1:18 lap at Mosport?
“Bottoming out the front upper control arm is a problem at the moment, so I plan to design or source a pair of custom front knuckles that move the upper balljoints inside the wheel, plus I’m planning to move the engine back and down to improve weight distribution and lower the center of gravity,” says Anis.
He also mentioned that he plans to vent the radiator through the hood properly, which can contribute a huge amount to front end downforce, and he’s also planning a full flat-bottom to help the front splitter and rear diffuser work more efficiently.
If we know anything about Anis and his capabilities, it’s that he’s one determined racer, so our expectation is that he’ll achieve his quest for a 1:18 lap time sooner rather than later. Things have been incredibly busy at OnPoint Dyno, where his skills as an ECU calibrator are in very high demand. Once the race season is over, we expect to see updates on the engine and aero development on this legend-chasing and legend-making Nissan 350Z.