NICOfest 2008 – Nashville
NICOfest at Import Alliance 2008 – Nashville TN
For the second consecutive year, NICOclub was invited to collaborate with Import Alliance in bringing a motorsports-themed weekend event to the beautiful state of Tennessee.Due in part to the promising turnout last year, and in order to accommodate more interactive events, the venue was changed to the Nashville Super Speedway, and a perfect location it turned out to be… The Nashville countryside is beautiful, the people are friendly and hospitable, and there’s some damn fine imports being built and modded in this area.
Your NICOclub staffers rolled in from Phoenix, Atlanta, Louisville, Indianapolis, Alabama, Virginia and other faraway places on Friday evening for a pre-meet dinner at Chili’s to discuss the weekend’s activities. We knew that HIN was putting on an event at the same time, and knew we’d have to hit it real hard to make sure people chose this event over the ric… errr, ‘other’ show.
As is typically the case, catching up with close friends leads to discussion of site-related issues, good times, adult beverages by the hotel pool, lots of laughs and conversations into the wee hours of the morning. With only 3 hours ’til we were supposed to be on-site for setup, a quick nap would have to do.
Saturday morning’s threatening clouds and damp air gave us slight pause as we prepped for the influx of crowds that were amassing outsidethe gates. We hoped the rain would hold off, as we set up tables and chairs and staffers’ cars got a final wipe-down.
While Nashville and the surrounding areas boast some of the most dedicated car enthusiasts in the country, something we hadn’t counted on was that many of the local clubs are comprised of vehicles of ALL makes and models. As a result, several impressive Nissan vehicles wound up dispersed throughout the event, tucked in among the masses of Hondas and other marquees. Regardless, as the NICOfest area filled up, it was pretty apparent that Nissan Corporate chose a great home in Nashville.
A quick shower, lasting no more than a few minutes, sent everyone for cover under the NICO tent, and out came the drying towels. The sun returned before the cars were dried, and brought with it the wicked heat and humidity we’ve come to expect from this event – The clean white NICOclub t-shirts seemed to sell like crazy, if only to replace soaked ones for the unlucky folks caught in the quick downpour.
Then it happened: A weird buzz of energy and activity started to spread through the venue, almost as if Angelina Jolie had strolled into a Wal-Mart in a leather bikini… What was everyone scurrying about for? Cell phones and cameras were whipped out, crowds parted, and in rolled Godzilla. The star of the show had arrived in the form of a red 2009 GTR, fresh from Nissan Corporate and rolled up to its display space in front of the NICO tent.
Nissan Factory Pilot (code name: Colin) emerged to wipe off the road grime, and you could almost see the red carpet and flashbulbs popping. Colin was gracious and friendly and answered question after question, and was very knowledgeable about the car. This was one of the “press” cars, and was fresh from its “Legend Meets Legend” appearance in California where none other than Steve Millen put the new GTR through its paces.
Accompanying the GTR was a G37 Sport Coupe clad in red, which made a perfect NICO-themed display when flanking our Administrator’s (audtatious) Ivory Pearl G37 Sport andanother enthusiasts Athens Blue sport coupe.
As if that wasn’t enough to fire up the Nissan enthusiast crowd, the icing on the cake was Nissan Specialty Vehicles employee Jennifer, a stunning blonde who rolled up in a Pre-release 2009 Nismo Edition 350Z (Serial number 0000). Jennifer brought Nismo Z posters, brochures and spec sheets, as well as copies of Road & Track featuring the Nismo Z article. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Nissan Headquarters also sent Infiniti rep Ethan Snyder, who spent quite a bit of time talking with NICO staff and members. Discussions ranged from past experiences with prior models, to current likes and dislikes about the marque, to what the near future holds for Infiniti as a brand. Through it all, there was a general sense that Nissan and Infiniti are considering the value of the enthusiast and seem to be making efforts to re-establish a relationship with its customers. It’s past due and welcomed – Definitely a step in the right direction!
Skyline fanatics must have thought they were in heaven, with the full range of modern examples being represented: R32, R33, R34 and R35, all within walking distance. The black 93 GTS-T at the event was for sale, and the owner was quite knowledgeable and fun to talk with – Here’s hoping it goes to a good home.
The Time Attack portion of the event went on throughout the day and provided an awesome soundtrack to the day’s events. At any given moment, from anywhere at the venue, you could look up and see drivers lapping the road course at full-boogie. The cars running the course ranged from FWD coupes to RWD Z’sand G’s to AWD Audi’s. NICO’s infield position allowed for the members to watch one chicane from the tent and there were numerous “oops” throughout the day resulting in cones flying and cars running off track. Of note was one Nissan Enthusiast running the Time Attack event in his 5.5th-gen Maxima.Not what you would expect and he was running high on the standings until a linkage bracket broke. Damn shame.
Later in the day, just as there was a lull in the action, several select NICOclub members and staffers hit the Nissan jackpot – We got invited to ride shotgun with Colin in the R35 GTR on the road course. The GTR is simply EVERYTHING you’ve read about and more, and Nissan has a world-class supercar on its hands. The launch control makes the car feel like it’s been rear-ended by a speeding garbage truck – But then it just keeps pulling… You expect, when shift points arrive, to be lurched forward slightly, and it’s an unsettling and bizarre feeling to actually miss that entire pause and just get pressed back into the seat HARDER.
In five laps around the road course, which incorporated the Speedway’s main straight, we reached roughly 130 mph, and Colin explained that there was WAY more available. Helmetless, we were limited to keeping things at 70% of full-boil. This car redefines track driving – The harder you push it, the better it performs. Throw it into a corner way too hard, and manhandle it – The electronic stability control and differential control will let it get a little out of shape, but gently step in to offer minor corrections. Just plain impressive. Ham-fist it, treat it badly, and do everything 1/3 harder then you would in a normal track car…
We could feel the differentials transferring power in the midst of a turn, but don’t go thinking this is some electronic nanny overriding the fun factor – On the stock all-season tires (ugh), there were a few turns where we were in full-slide, yet rather than a gentle lift and gradual reapplication of throttle, you just point it in the proper direction and squeeze on some more power. This thing is so brutally fast, it defies logic – It feels as if it’s always scrambling for more speed, even at the apex of a turn.
Despite its balls-out nature, this car is refined: With the windows down, we were able to converse at a normal volume at that speed, which was incredibly strange. The interior is beautifully appointed, and the epitome of a gentleman’s grand touring coupe. At normal speeds, it’s as docile and comfortable as the G37. Rolling back into the NICOfest display area, the looks of envy on people’s faces was totally enjoyable – The R35 GTR is a rock star, and everyone wants to be near it.
Following a full day of talking cars and dealing with the heat, a group of NICO members met for Dinner at Applebee’s to quench the call for food and drink.Finally full, and with the sun past the horizon,it was time for some relaxation at which point the gang all retreated to the hotel pool.With cases of cold beer, and some vodka to boot, the festive nature turned rowdy with a few staffers getting inand causing chaos.What chaos?Well, you will have to come to other meets to find out.
Sunday kicked off the final day of the event.Throughout the day, cars came and went.From a bagged5th-gen Maxima that placed well at the HIN event to one of NICO’s “Ride of the Month” winners LS1 powered S14 240sx we had quite a number of top-notch vehicles show in the area. Included in the fieldwas a second V8-inspired 240sx, a 700+whp G35 which will
be featured on NICO at a later date, an done of the cleanest R34’s we have seen at one of our events. With each event we put on we are constantly impressed with the quality of vehicles being represented.
As the mid-day hit, Import Alliance started allowing others to take rides on the racing circuit.Unlike the Time Attack, IA only allowed groups of cars to go out together and, for safety, they were not allowed to pass and were required to make stops to keep the speed down.Undeterred, we convinced Wes to take his Q45 onto the track. This particular Q45 has been passed down the line to multiple NICO members over the years andhas been drag raced, drifted and auto crossed by a large number of NICOclub members throughout the years.There are only a few NICOclub staff members that have NOT been in a 80mph+ sideways drift in this workhorse. While unable to get as aggressive as he wanted, Wes was all smiles upon returning to the NICOarea.Was the smile related to running on the track? Well, kind of. Seems he had forgotten the left over beer bottles that were in the trunk of the Q and thus throughout the laps on the course there was quite a clamor from them smashing against each other in the turns. Never fear, not a single bottle was hurt during the event (although quite a few were drained on Saturday).
Sunday afternoon, NICO’s model was on hand for a flurry of picture taking.Since NICO has it’s shareof female participants, who make it a point to complain that we never have male models for them tostare at, we decided to make the step forward and promote James to be our official male model of theNashville event.After donning on an official NICO model shirt, James proceeded to pose by a number of cars and even joined in for some wet fun with our official model.Of course, hilarity ensued.
With the day finally over, the NICO section was cleared out.New friends were made, faces were put to NICO usernames and the crew finally headed for home with another successful NICO event under theirbelts.
NICO would like to extend special thanks to Don and the Import Alliance crew – They managed to pull off what has become a major event smoothly and without too many of the hassles that plague many large automotive events. We’re already talking with the IA team about how to improve and expand next year’s event and we’re looking forward to a long and successful relationship with IA and the Nashville Nissan enthusiasts that make this event possible.