NX GTi-R: Hill Climb Edition


The car was looking pretty good – except for my ongoing track hood experiment, of course. A few folks stopped by in the camping area to comment how they really liked the sound. It currently has an open blow-off valve that is currently up for discussion. I think I'm just a bit too old for that! Photo Credit: Douglas Bentley.

A quick check of the front steering system revealed no issues to cause the violent reaction that I was feeling – I put that down to the 0 toe alignment that I had arrived at the mountain with. Next we bled the brakes and got several substantial bubbles out. Runs 3 and 4 were similar to the 2nd one. The car wanted to take me off course on every straight. My brake pedal was getting softer with each action of the pedal – so much so that I was pumping the brake well ahead of my braking marker just to be sure that I could slow for the corners. With speeds approaching 130/140 kph at a couple of the corners and, on the lengthy straight heading into turn 7 nearer to 160 kph – this brake pedal issue was causing me grief. This was reflected in my times which, instead of reducing were increasing by a second with each run. Bottom line, Saturday's runs were frustrating.

Ben flew in from Vancouver Island. We met in Ontario but now both live on the west coast. Here Ben is supporting me while I fit a new alternator belt – onto G-Spec pulleys. (Greg, I just had to add that in.) Photo Credit: Benjamin Freeling

My buddy, Ben, had flown in from Victoria to join me for the weekend. Over supper Saturday, we discussed what was happening. Ben and I had raced together in Ontario Time Attack and he has built up an awesome Honda Civic Time Attack car so he brought a lot to the table. I was seriously questioning whether I had simply lost my nerve. As we were bleeding the brakes, Ben observed that the the pedal was good. We could not see anything with the suspension to indicate a failure. But after supper it was time to bleed the brakes again – with a fine tooth comb. Found a couple of minor leaks which were solved with a bit of elbow grease. Got a few more air bubbles – which surprised me. I am running Castrol SRF fluid and with the support of G-LOC Brakes (*disclaimer: I am an authorized G-LOC Brakes dealer) have great compounds on the car. The front calipers are Wilwood Superlites with 11.75″ rotors from FastBrakes – they are simply an awesome setup. The rear brake calipers are OEM Nissan NX2000 calipers that were newly purchased as rebuilds. Tires are Toyo RR's mounted on Volks TE37s – the car's braking power should be enough to plant my face in the windshield – but that cannot happen as my 5 point harness will keep me properly seated. It just is not happening. Stumped and with all maintenance done for the evening, I went off for a walk around the grounds.


It wasn't until after the event that I found the reason for my spongy brake pedal. One of the new, remanufactured brake calipers that had just been installed on the car was leaking. Since I didn't have time to rebuild the calipers, I had picked up a set of remanufactured ones. The leak started slow but by the time I got home and up on jack stands in my garage, there were steady drops falling to the floor when pressure was applied to the brakes. It's so much easier to spot drops on a garage floor than on grass.

On my walk I chatted with a number of fellow racers about their day, the successes and failures, and I made sure to bring into the discussion how darty my car was feeling. The first groups I chatted with looked at me with a bit of wonderment – their cars tracked up the hill just fine. Obviously, that helped my self-concept immensely. After a bit of discussion, one of my new friends suggested I head a bit further down the road and talk to Jeff (actually, it's Geoff). He was a FWD racer while the group I was chatting with were not. They were either RWD or AWD. Before finding Geoff I saw Trevor, who I had met earlier at Mission Raceway where he was racing his Mini and seeking his full race licence. As we chatted and I mentioned how I thought my car was trying to kill me on the straights, he not only understood what I was talking about but had the same challenge with his Mini. Then, he called Geoff over. When I described my handling dilemna, he asked me about my car, specifically the power levels and what kind of LSD I had. When I described the Nismo LSD and 272 whp, he laughed and said handling would be like his car which was “like wrestling a bear in a phone booth”. His suggestion for me was the same as he had given Trevor earlier in the day – measure the circumference of all of the tires and then put the two closest sets on the front drive wheels. He pointed out that the LSD would be fighting against itself if the tires were different. Then it was just having to live with the car wanting to follow every groove UNLESS I wanted to severely restrict my boost. I did think about that … for a couple of seconds before setting that crazy thought aside. Chatting on the phone, Paulo also suggested that turning down the boost may not be the best at this point, but that I should do one more run Sunday before making any power adjustments.


Snoozing? Praying? Visualizing the track? Probably all three. The organizers at Knox Mountain Hill Climb have strict entry requirements including full safety gear, including neck restraints and wrist straps (unless the car is outfitted with window nets). This is the first time I've worn wrist straps – they're so easy to use and seamless while driving. I don't understand why more organizations don't require them. And, I don't understand why I didn't wear them before.

Well, I pulled Ben out of the RV and we jacked the car up and measured the circumference of the tires. Sure enough, the two I had on the front were a 1/4″ off so we swapped the with the two rear which were much closer. I did not have my AIM Solo configured for the course and it could not find the course in its database – so I was out of luck on reviewing any data. It was removed from the car as it was not doing anything. By now it was dark, mosquitos were starting to feast on Ben, so we called it a night. Throughout the balance of the evening I visualized the track and how I would approach it. Then, slept a bit. At 4 a.m. I watched videos of others who approached the mountain using the line I thought best in turn 3. Then I slept a bit. Then at about 6 a.m. I went out and walked the first stretch of the course but only about half-way to turn 1. Back at the car I cleaned the windows … including the rear window. Habit, I guess.


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