The quiet neighborhood of Walnut, California was anything but peaceful this particular morning, as the clattering of power tools and exhaust rumbling from inside the Car Code service bay garage pierced the morning air. As my curiosity took over, I craned my neck to peer inside to see what all the commotion was about; lo and behold, I was immediately greeted by a pair of Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 race cars.
A whirlwind of activity surrounded the twin cars as the Hong Kong-based KC Motorgroup Ltd. (KCMG) race team worked to prepare for the Intercontinental GT Challenge World Series.
As I stood there admiring these race cars, it suddenly dawned on me that these were the same GT3 competitors I had watched a few weeks back as they jockeyed for position among a heated grid of Porsches, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis at the Bathurst 12 Hour race in Australia.
“The KCMG Nissan team got off to a strong start at the opening round of the IGTC held at the iconic and demanding Bathurst Mount Panorama circuit. Showing good pace and reliability, the KCMG GT-Rs were in contention for a podium finish up until late in the race, when they were caught out by an unlucky late safety car period,” says Ian Geekie, KCMG team manager.
Geekie mentioned that Andy Yu, owner of Car Code, a one-stop auto center for mechanical service, bodywork, and detailing, generously offered his auto repair and service center facility for the team to focus on vehicle preparations. Yu stated that he gladly did a favor for Paul Ip—his friend and KCMG team owner—as the team prepared for the California 8 hour race, set to take place at Laguna Seca less than 24 hours from our initial shoot.
GT3 is regarded as the most successful production car racing class there has ever been, due in part to the rise in popularity of supercars worldwide. The Intercontinental GT Challenge—featuring major GT3 competitors—consists of a grueling race schedule: the Bathurst 12 Hour in Australia, the California 8 Hours, the 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium, the Suzuka 10 Hours in Japan, and the Kyalami 9 Hour in South Africa. KCMG will participate in all of these events with its two ’19-spec Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 cars.
“As a team, it takes a certain amount of dedication; we’ve been living out of our suitcases, traveling from one round to another and preparing both cars a majority of the time from inside the shipping containers. It’s rather refreshing to be able to stretch our legs and work from the comforts of a fully functional garage,” says Geekie.
KCMG is best-known in the US through its partnership with Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. KCMG has also participated in several touring car, sports car, and open-wheel racing competitions across the world.
Nissan represented on the Nürburgring ADAC 24 Hours grid for the first time in three years with a trio of GT3 cars. KCMG fielded two Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3s in the endurance event held at the Nürburgring Nordschleife in Germany on June 22–23, while Kondo Racing entered a single car.
Interestingly enough, I learned that Group GT3 cars can be built either directly by the automotive manufacturer, such as Porsche, Audi, or Mercedes-Benz, or in this case, Nissan’s race division, NISMO.
NISMO Japan fully built both KCMG No. 35 and No. 18 vehicles; they have been supplying the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 under FIA GT3 regulations as part of their customer racing GT3 program. NISMO also offers a customer racing engine supply program as well as providing technical race support.
Powered by a 2019-spec NISMO GT3 twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 (VR38DETT) engine, the GT3-spec race car makes over 550 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 470 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm.
Power is delivered to the wheels through a 5.5-inch, 4-plate six-speed sequential transmission, with semi-automatic paddle shift, ABS, and TCS as standard equipment.
The GT3 racer has an optimized weight distribution and a lower center of gravity, thanks to new engine mounts. The VR38DETT sits 5.9 inches lower than the factory height and uses a dry-sump oiling system to allow for additional ground clearance. By lowering the entire powertrain—including heavy components such as the driveshaft and gearbox—the center of gravity and vehicle handling is significantly improved.
Rays Engineering 18×13-inch wheels are wrapped in Pirelli 325/705-18 front and 330/710-18 tires in the rear.
A set of AP Racing/NISMO six-piston front and four-piston rear brake calipers provide the stopping power.
The big red decals on all four corners of the dry carbon roof are a big part of the GT-R’s safety package. They are used as indicators of where to find the latching mechanism that allows easy access through the roof by medics to quickly extricate the driver if the car is involved in an accident.
The aerodynamic elements of the GT-R NISMO GT3 were methodically developed to ensure vehicle stability and to improve the cooling performance. Using aerodynamically tested ducting, airflow inside the engine bay was optimized to increase downforce, which provides improved driving stability at high speeds.
The layout of the radiator and the intercooler was also modified. The space in the front of the engine room created by moving the engine to the back was used to install the radiator and intercooler at ideal positions so that air can be passed smoothly through them. At the same time, the layout of air intake and air outlet was also modified to significantly improve cooling performance.
Speaking of cooling, check out the dry carbon fiber driver cooling system. This system does not cool the inside of the cockpit, rather, it sends cool air directly to the helmet and seat to keep drivers comfortable in severe weather conditions.
Weight savings is an essential component of building a quality racing program. A slew of OEM parts were replaced with dry carbon pieces—including the car’s entire outer skin—to bring the racing weight down to a mere 2,832 pounds.
Even the fuel cell container was constructed in dry carbon to maximize weight reduction.
“Going forward, each event in the Championship offers its unique challenges, but that’s what makes it interesting and team KCMG is definitely up for the challenge,” says Geekie.
The team’s results bear out its efforts. At Bathurst, they finished 7th and 15th, 9th and 12th in California, 18th and 39th at Spa, and 6th and 23rd in Suzuka.
The team’s next race is at Kyalami Racing Circuit, where they will be angling for a podium finish to close out the season in this intense racing series. We were honored we had the opportunity to get up-close with these cars and wish them luck in the final race!