Omotenashi, the ancient Japanese philosophy of service embodies the selfless desire of a host to make his guests feel relaxed and happy with warmth, politeness and attention to detail. Walking into the pit lane at the Dubai Autodrome, I felt a mix of awe and nervousness at the prospect of meeting one of the greatest engineering minds in the automobile world. Little did I know it would turn out to be a most pleasant and enlightening tête-à-tête with ‘omotenashi’ in the flesh.
Greatness sits ever so lightly on the slender shoulders of Kazutoshi Mizuno, the “father of the Nissan GT-R”, who immediately put me at ease with his gentle smile and a humble bow. Mizuno-san then went on to apologise for his ‘not-so-good’ English, but I could see that language was not going to be an issue, as the passion and emotion exuded by every pore of his furrowed brow were articulate enough. And the definitive manifestation of this passion was parked right beside us — the 2013 Nissan GT-R.
So, is this the ultimate GT-R? “If it were a racing car project I would have achieved 100 per cent by now. But the GT-R is a production model. It has been developed for the customer, not the racing driver. It’s completely different from developing a racecar,” said Mizuno. “When I’m developing a production car, its performance is not just dependent on my knowledge or the technology at my disposal. All the settings of the car will be made with the customer, dealer and the mechanic in mind. These considerations play a huge role in deciding the performance of a high-performance road car.”
This is when you begin to wonder why the car’s Nürburgring lap times assume such significance for the GT-R development team, if the car was aimed purely at wannabe racers. But he brings to the table the stability factor, which according to him is the most important aspect of the GT-R. “More than the lap times, the tests at the Nürburgring are important for the car’s stability. The GT-R being such a fast car, it’s important that it’s stable at higher speeds. Therefore, testing the car around the fast, blind corners of the Nordschleife has great importance from a customer’s point of view.”
Aren’t 545bhp of power, 627Nm of torque and a mind-boggling 0-100kph time of2.7 seconds enough then? How much further can the GT-R’s performance be pushed? “Very difficult question,” exclaims a beaming Mizuno. “This 2013 model is 90 per cent complete. That means it still has a 10 per cent potential for performance improvements. Mind you, 10 per cent is a very big number when it comes to the performance of a car like the GT-R.” And the best bit is this ultimate GT-R could be just a couple of years away from becoming a reality. But he maintains that it’s not just for him to decide as there are many different departments taking these decisions. “As of now I don’t think about anything else but the current model. I concentrate on making it the best.” Does he really think it is the best? “Yes, to me the GT-R is the best car in the world.”
Anyone who has spent as little as a few minutes behind the wheel of a Nissan GT-R will have no doubt that it’s a mechanical marvel. But there have been accusations that the GT-R is perhaps a bit too mechanical and thus fails to evoke emotions like an Aston Martin or a Maserati would. Barely do I begin mentioning this, when the genial smile fades away and Mizuno’s countenance assumes an uncharacteristic sternness.
“I don’t think so,” he said in a firm tone. He points out that the targets of these cars are completely different. While Mizuno agrees that a Maserati is definitely good looking and luxurious, he thinks a road-going Maser won’t be any good on a racetrack. But the Nissan GT-R is equally at home on the road and track. “Anyone, anywhere, anytime can enjoy supercar performance in the GT-R. These other cars might be light and beautiful, but we at Nissan make sure that the customer can enjoy the car’s performance limits and still be as safe as possible.” I realised I had touched a raw nerve here, seeing the intensity with which he was trying to prove his point. “You’ll notice the difference if you drive other supercars and the GT-R under sandy, slippery conditions like you have here in the Middle East or on snow like in northern Europe and Canada. You won’t be confident enough to push the limits of a sexy, lightweight European supercar under such conditions. It can in fact be very dangerous. But things are different if you’re driving a GT-R, the world’s fastest accelerating four-seat production car,” said the engineer, gesticulating animatedly.
As much as he loves the GT-R, Mizuno is evidently not amused at the prospect of the powertrain being used in an Infiniti, although his personal set of wheels is a G37. “With the Z car, the GT-R and the Nismo range, Nissan is an inherently sporty brand, while Infiniti is more about luxury. The image is a little bit different from that of Nissan’s. So if you ask me, a GT-R with an Infiniti badge is not a good idea, and I think the GT-R badge should be reserved exclusively for the Nissan brand. Nissan has a line of high-performance cars, and Infiniti doesn’t, and that’s important.” So does that mean he’s happy with the Juke sharing the GT-R’s powertrain? He brushes this aside, saying, “I cannot comment on it. Although it’s powered by the GT-R’s powertrain, it’s got nothing to do with the GT-R development team. It’s a British development project.”
At this point the first batch of motoring hacks fire up their Track Pack Edition GT-Rs, and with the V6 rumble resonating from the Autodrome’s empty stands, it becomes hard to get Mizuno’s attention any more. We walk out on to the track, and there is no missing the glint of pride in his eyes as he sees each car pull out on to the track, much like a parent watching his kids playing in the park. Looking at him, it occurred to me how similar the car and its creator are; both embody Japanese passion, emotion and the hunger for perfection. There’s no separating the man from the machine, they’re one and the same.