GTRBlog Interviews Toshio Suzuki – Lord of the ‘Ring

March 3rd, 2009

Surrounding the small town of Nurburg Germany is a public road known to many a racing driver and motor enthusiast worldwide. There are many names for this road, the Green Hell, the ‘Ring, the North Loop or Nordschleife and yes, the collective name, the Nurburgring. It’s where you go when you’re an auto manufacturer with a sports car in development or a budding concept car you need to prove.

Nissan has been developing the GT-R at the Nurburgring before it even was a GT-R. Back then it was a Nissan Skyline V35 with a new drive train underneath. They kept at it, developing the car on the torturous 20 kilometre circuit all the way to production and the work paid off. The GT-R was to set some of the fastest times ever seen by a production car at the circuit. Today the GT-R’s best time stands at 7:29.03 set on the 17th of April 2008.

The man responsible for all the driving through such development and ultimately the mind blowing results is none other than Nissan Chief Test Driver, Toshio Suzuki.

Recently Nissan Motors Australia launched the GT-R to the Australian press at a track day at Eastern Creek raceway in Sydney. For the occasion they had imported Suzuki-san to really show what the GT-R can do when ultimate driving skills meet Nissan super car.

GTRBlog was invited down for the day and had the opportunity to sit down and really talk GT-Rs with Suzuki-san and ask some of the questions that we’d been saving up since GT-R launch as well as some new ones that have recently popped up with the launch of the Nissan GT-R SpecV.

Here’s our interview, please read it and send your comments below by clicking the read more link…

Biographical Background

  • Name: Toshio Suzuki (鈴木 利男)
  • Born: March 10, 1955 in Saitama Prefecture, Japan
  • Racing Career:
    Suzuki-san had a successful early racing career in Japan winning the All-Japan Kart Championships three times in 1975, 1976 and 1979. In 1992 he won the 24hrs of Daytona driving an Nissan R91CP for NISMO. He also finished second place driving a Lola in the 1992 Japanese Formula 3000 series.

    In 1993 he drove for Larrousse F1 team for two of the seasons Formula-1 rounds finishing 12th in Japan and 14th in Australia.

    Since then Suzuki-san was involved in JGTC racing (SuperGT), Japanese Formula 3000 racing and finally, after retiring from race driving, race team directing.

    Over the years Suzuki-san has been racing the Nissan GT-R in it’s many forms from the 1989 R32 GT-R all the way through to the 1999+ R34 GT-R.

  • Current Occupation: Chief Test Driver, Nissan Japan

The Meeting

It’s extremely hot today, we’ve arrived early before the other press and have spotted Suzuki-san having a break to recover from driving all morning in the 33 degree C temperatures.

I take the opportunity to informally meet with Suzuki-san and meet the team from Nissan Japan and Australia:

  • Kris (GTRBlog.com) – (Japanese) Hajimimashite, I am Kris from GTRBlog.com. Our website is devoted to the Nissan GT-R and news about the latest GT-R developments.
  • Suzuki-san – (Japanese) Hello, nice to meet you.

    (At this point the Nissan staff standing near Suzuki-san introduce themselves to us also. We do the traditional name-card exchange as politely as we can.)

  • Kris – It’s a great honour to finally meet you.
  • Suzuki-san – (Japanese) Thanks – you speak Japanese? Why?
  • Kris – (Japanese) Haha yeah only little bit though!
  • Suzuki-san – (laughing) Your girlfriend is Japanese right!?
  • Kris – (Japanese and now also laughing) Good guess! Nooo, my wife isn’t Japanese but she does speak Japanese – It helps! We travel to Japan quite a lot.

    (I switch to English because I’ve run out of my minimal Japanese)

  • Kris – I actually met one of your old friends, Shishikura-san, last time in Japan, he tells me you’re a pretty mean karter?

    (We had met Kazuo Shishikura-san recently at the Nissan Tochigi Factory where we had been given a tour of the GT-R assembly line and a few hot laps of the GT-R test track. This full story is due soon. Shishikura-san is a test driver for the Nissan Motor Japan Quality Assurance section of the Tochigi Plant assembly line. That is he test drives GT-Rs for a living…)

  • Suzuki-san – Yes! We used to kart together, he works as a test driver also.

We then run out of time to chat as the press briefing is about to start, we organise to meet up again later and attend the briefing.

The Nissan briefing is very interesting, we hear from Jeff Fisher from Nissan Motors Australia Corporate Communications, Dan Thompson CEO and Managing Director of Nissan Australia, and Philip Galway Product Manager for the GT-R in Australia. Philip lets us know about the latest 3.3 second 0-60mph time set by the Nissan GT-R.

After the briefing there are alternating laps of journalists on the track. Suzuki-san finally gets a break from the hot GT-Rs and is sitting down in the pits. We spot our new friend Ken, a very helpful Japanese chap from Nissan Australia, and coerce him into translating for us for a longer chat with Suzuki-san.

The Interview

  • Kris (GTRBlog.com) – So what is your favourite GT-R from the past 20 years? R32, R33, R34 and R35 GT-R?
  • Suzuki-san – I feel that the R35 GT-R is a really great car, but when you think back to what the R32 GT-R was able to do back in 1989 and that Nissan were able to even build that car back then. That really was an extraordinary car. That, I feel, is my favourite GT-R.
  • Kris – The R32! (nearby R32 owners overhear and laugh!)
  • Kris – You spend a lot of time in Germany, how do mentally prepare yourself to attack the Nurburgring? Do you have any rituals you do? Any good luck charms?
  • Suzuki-san – haha – I pray to God all the time!
  • Kris – So you have no fear when driving the Nurburgring? The videos we’ve seen show serious commitment to every corner?
  • Suzuki-san – Well really it is a challenging circuit to drive at maximum for the entire lap. Once I get in “the zone” where I can fully concentrate on driving the car 100% I don’t have any fear.
  • Kris – Is there any competition between yourself and other Nissan test drivers?
  • Suzuki-san – No not at all…. (pauses) Of course because I’m the best …. (laughs)
  • Kris – What’s your all time favourite circuit to drive?
  • Suzuki-san – Well, when I was still racing my favourite circuit was the Le Mans track in France. I tend to like almost every race circuit I come across though. Of course I have good and bad memories from every circuit.
  • Kris – What about this race track – Eastern Creek Raceway. Do you like it?
  • Suzuki-san – This track is a big test of the car’s power. The hot conditions here today do not help the GT-Rs engine.
  • Kris – Let’s talk about tires. Which do you prefer? The Bridgestone (RE070R) the Dunlop (SP Sport 600 DSST) or the new Dunlops (SP Sport 600 DSST new version)?
  • Suzuki-san – If your circuit driving, I think the new Dunlop tires offer the best performance. If you are on the street, the Bridgestone tires give you the best wet weather performance with the least road noise
  • Kris – So what is your personal daily driver?
  • Suzuki-san – I drive a GT-R of course
  • Kris – A SpecV?
  • Suzuki-san – Well I have a regular GT-R but I don’t actually drive it every day. I have a Mercedes for that.
  • Kris – I have heard that you now own the GT-R that drove the actual 7:38 lap time at Nurburgring? Is that true?
  • Suzuki-san – Ah, during development there was many test cars, I have one of those but I don’t think it’s the exact car that did the laptime. It is pretty much the same as the one that recorded that time. To be accurate, I am just borrowing that car from Nissan (laughs)
  • Kris(laughs) ok… What about the 2009 Nissan GT-R, do you think it’s going to go faster than the 2008 GT-R at the ‘ring?
  • Suzuki-san – Well it’s definitely faster for sure. It really is going to depend on the conditions when we go back in April. On a short circuit the difference is going to be small but on the Nurburgring I think the difference could be 4 – 5 seconds.
  • Kris – Did you happen to set a set a time in the Nismo ClubSport GT-R at Nurburgring?
  • Suzuki-san – I have driven the Nismo ClubSport Package, but we didn’t perform any time attack in that car.
  • Kris – Ok! And the question I’ve been dying to ask, the SpecV Nurburgring laptime. Can you officially tell us what time it set?
  • Suzuki-san(everyone laughs as this is obviously a hot topic) Please ask Mizuno-san.. (laughs some more) Ask Mizuno-san what time he will be satisfied with.
  • Kris – Right! So we’ve officially been told you’ll return to the Nurburgring in April this year. Will you be setting lap times in both the base GT-R and the SpecV?
  • Suzuki-san – Yes, both.
  • Kris – Great! Any predictions on the SpecV time?
  • Suzuki-san – Well the SpecV is lighter, has more power, better braking. It will set a faster time…
  • Kris – I hope to hear about it soon. Well thanks a lot for allowing us this interview today. Good luck in April!

The best part about meeting Suzuki-san was that he is nice and easy going. I admit I am quite a fan of his so it felt a lot like meeting a big celebrity for the first time. Although I think the success of the GT-R and the amount of press it gets does make Suzuki-san a celebrity in a way so perhaps I’m not far off.

Thanks to Suzuki-san, Kentaro Hara from NMA for translating, Jeff Fisher and the team at Nissan Motors Australia for making this happen.

Link: Official Nissan GT-R Website Australia

GTRBlog News

  1. stewy_32
    | #1

    great interview, answered a few questions i had myself.

  2. Bendoe
    | #2

    Very nice interview,

    thanks a lot!!

  3. sayen
    | #3

    Great interview.
    Can’t wait to April for both Times 🙂

  4. | #4

    Nice work. Forgot to mention the on-track “incident” lol. 🙂

  5. | #5

    Something struck me as odd: since when the SpecV has more power than the regular GT-R ? Was it a slip or just an error of translation and Suzuki-san really meant that “the SpecV is lighter, has better handling and braking. It will set a faster time…” ?

  6. GTRfanatic
    | #6

    “Something struck me as odd: since when the SpecV has more power than the regular GT-R?”

    The spec-v should have 5 more hp than the base version.

  7. | #7

    Doesnt the SpecV come with an overboost function?

  8. | #8

    All SeriesII GT-R’s come with the 5hp bump. The SpecV comes with the overboost function. Believe it will just increase power under the curve but haven’t heard many specifics about it.

  9. Admin
    | #9

    Thanks for the comments guys. If you have other Nissan GT-R related legends you want to see interviewed drop us an email and we can try to make it happen!

    As for the SpecV power bump. Suzuki-san refers to the difference between the existing laptime which was achieved in the 2008 GT-R and the next outing. There is the 5ps power bump plus the overboost function which he can use several times per lap.

  10. | #10

    I would like to see an interview with the legendary founder of gtrblog.

  11. | #11

    Chuck – I can write up an interview with the gtrblog founder. I will of course make up most of the stuff, but still 😛

    Kris – once again a brilliant interview.

  12. writeoff
    | #12

    Great write up Kris! Makes me proud of my R32 GTR too 🙂

    BTW did you ask Mizuno-san what time he would be happy with for the SpecV?

  13. Admin
    | #13

    Unfortunately I have not seen Mizuno-san since January but I think we know the answer already. Mizuno-san gave it to us in his slide presentation at the SpecV launch in Tokyo. He wants to see 7:20 – 7:22.

    I think they already have a time but want to try in better track conditions in April.

    April 2008 was when they set the 7:29 so it will be fitting to see what 1 year has done to the car.

  14. Andy
    | #14

    Good interview, great pictures, thanks Kris!

  15. GTRfanatic
    | #15

    Although, I hate to sound pessimistic. I do not think Nissan will be able to beat the Dodge Viper ACR’s record.

    Kris, if they cannot do it then perhaps you are the only one who can convinced them to upgrade. Oh no, not just the weight but power figures as well. And when I mean upgrade, I mean an overhaul.

  16. Admin
    | #16

    @GTRFanatic

    I understand your pessimism but fortunately we have only a month and a half wait to see. I think we will see 7:22 without too much trouble.

    @Timechaser
    Thanks! I need to get back to Singapore soon to get to one of your meets there 🙂

  17. Drift GT
    | #17

    I donn’t really know why specV just increases 5ps.7:20 is still a good time,but not good enough.

  18. | #18

    I think 6:59 is a good target.

    @Timechaser
    Get writing! 🙂

  19. Zeds R35
    | #19

    Also enjoyed the interview but didn’t realise(don’t think so)that the Nordschleife is a public road as say for most of the year Bathurst is a public road.I know its open to most for a price per lap but I don’t think it’s a public road.Imagine your on your hot lap going for a time and as you crest a full noise rise you encounter a local farmer on his tractor crossing the road (track) between paddocks with 5 scattered dogs.When it becomes obvious Journos haven’t done their research then how much of their spiel can you believe.Please if I’m wrong correct me as I’m heading there soon .GT4 doesn’t mention it.

  20. Admin
    | #20

    It’s most certainly a public road and you can go and have a look yourself.

    At any moment when your not driving a closed session you are likely to come across a tour bus…

    Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia:

    Nordschleife public access

    The Nordschleife has remained a one-way, public toll-road for nearly 80 years except when it is closed off for testing purposes, training lessons or racing events. Since its opening in 1927, the track has been used by the public for the so-called “Touristenfahrten”, i.e. to anyone with a road legal car or motorcycle, as well as tour buses, motor homes or cars with trailers…”

    Enjoy your time there! Don’t forget to rent a nice car for your day out.

  21. eric
    | #21

    For that much more $$$ (30-40k?) for a spec-v you think they’d increase the overall output. Anyone know how much extra boost is gained by using the button? If its fairly significant it may not be as bad as it sounds. Nissan probably just doesn’t want to spend the extra cash to bulletproof engine at higher boost levels. I’m pretty sure there will be at least one more high-end version of the GTR will the power tuners are already getting out of the base one.

  22. Michael
    | #22

    That was a good interview Kris. A lot of people would love to have been in your place speaking with Suzuki san.

  23. mincus
    | #23

    Hi Kris,

    Any lap times from the creek when Toshio was driving ?

  24. Admin
    | #24

    As you can see in one of the photos the track was modified with cones to prevent timing being set as is the Nissan global policy.

  25. yuangs
    | #25

    Great interview from Kris! Hope we can see more of this! Thanks Kris!

  26. | #26

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Ann

    http://racingonlinegames.net

  27. | #27

    Great interview! The car looks like it would be a lot of fun to drive although it does look easy watching Suzuki-san maneuvering effortlessly around the track.

    I especially love the question about competition between the test drivers; you can tell from his answer that there is a touch of friendly rivalry!

    Reading this article makes me wonder how you would get into this field of work. I suppose most drivers start with karting and then move on to F1 or rallying but what a wonderful way to earn a living; driving cars as fast as you can around a racetrack. I am definitely in the wrong profession!

  28. | #28

    awesome interview…. thanks to share

  29. | #29

    good article , hope to see more about this subject.

  30. | #30

    I really have a tendency to go along with everything that
    was posted within “Nissan GT-R News – GTRBlog.com | GTRBlog Interviews Toshio
    Suzuki – Lord of the ‘Ring”. Thanks a lot for all the facts.
    Thanks a lot-Zulma

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