BUTTONWILLOW, CA, November 14th – Nissan’s new Versa subcompact car recently appeared somewhere many people never thought it would… at a racetrack. Attendees to Primedia’s annual Time Attack event at Buttonwillow Raceway on November 8th were visibly shocked to see a Versa running through the pits and carving up the track alongside cars with two and three times the horsepower.
Leading automotive fashion company turn3 Creative partnered up with Siphon Magazine, a spin-off of Primedia’s popular Import Tuner magazine, to transform Nissan’s b-segment entry into a nimble track machine. The turn3/Siphon Versa made its public debut at SEMA in Las Vegas the last week of October. The team had less than three days to prep the car for its inaugural race.
SEMA ended on Friday. On Sunday the team got the car back and headed up to Willow Springs for a shakedown day. After six hours of putting the Versa through the paces turn3’s driver Dan Gardner advised that the car would need more camber in order to be competitive.
Fine-tuning for Time Attack began in earnest on Monday. The 17″ street tires were set aside for 15×7″ lightweight cast wheels, which were shod with Kumho V710 R-compound race tires. Carbotech was tapped to provide a set of race pads. The stock oil was drained and replaced with Motul high-performance fluid. With this done, the team turned to expert suspension tuner Robert Fuller of RobiSpec work his infamous set-up magic.
Fuller’s goal was to stiffen up the chassis and get more camber out of the vehicle. To this end he fabricated solid aluminum front crossmember mounts, seam welded the front crossmember, and raised it by 13mm. The custom TEIN coilover kit was adjusted to lower the ride height by 1.5″.Fuller shimmed the rear axle beam to get to zero toe, slotted the struts for increased camber range, and was able to set the front camber to -1.1 degrees and the rear camber to -1.2 degrees. At the end of this frenzy of fabrication and tuning, the Versa definitely felt more responsive on track.
Pulling into Buttonwillow the morning of the 8th was like pulling into a Who’s Who of tuner cars. The track was teeming with fully built cars including several Skylines, an NSX, and even a World Challenge Porsche.The b-segment was well represented with no less than 6 Honda Fits present.The turn3/Siphon Versa was the only Nissan in the Time Attack “Micro”class and turned plenty of heads as it pulled through the pits. Throughout the day many competitors and spectators would find the turn3 pitting area to find out what Nissan’s “race” Versa was all about.
The morning sessions went well, so well that Gardner found himself sitting at the top of the “Micro” class by mid-day. His lap time of 2:16 was good enough to put him a few seconds ahead of the supercharged Honda Fit of famed Honda tuner Jackson Racing. Skunk2’s Fit pulled a DNF, leaving turn3 in the #1 position at the mid-day break.
After pitting, Gardner raised concerns about the brake pads. Upon inspection it was determined that the team had been mistakenly supplied with a different compound pad. Team principal and turn3 Creative President Glenn Oyoung was given a crash course in brake pad installation. With the help of Richie Watanabe from Technosquare, the stock pads on the Versa were swapped back in. While not the optimal solution, it would allow the team to continue racing for the rest of the day.
In the afternoon a trio of heavily tuned Fits including the N1 Concepts K20 -powered (RSX-engine) Fit, Spoon Sports/Opak Racing Fit, and J’s Racing Fit joined the “Micro” class battle. Gardner was able to shave off another second off his time but was unable to fend off the newcomers despite an impressive showing.
“I’m totally excited about our performance today,” said Oyoung. “Dan drove the heck out of the Versa and we gave everyone a great run for their money,” he continued. “With our Versa so early on in its development cycle, we are really excited about the potential of this car as we look at how well we did today,” said Oyoung. He continued, “Just as important as our lap time is the fact that all day I had people coming up and expressing their excitement that someone is out here representing the Nissan brand in a unique way… that means a lot to me and the rest of the team at turn3. That was really the goal of this project from day one.”
The turn3/Siphon Versa will continue to make appearances at local Southern California tracks throughout the year. The team will compete at other races and high-performance driving events at Willow Springs and Buttonwillow in the year ahead.
(Note: This project is fully backed by turn3 Creative, Inc. which received no funds or support from NISMO. It’s a grassroots team paying homage to Nissan’s finest performance traditions.)
Shakedown Day: Versa fights back Lotus Elise (Lotus never passed!)
Horse Thief track @ Willow Springs (Photo by turn3)
Versa gets chased down by NSX (Photo Courtesy of Joey Leh)
Carving up the Apexes (Photo Courtesy of Joey Leh)
Clash of the Titans (Photo Courtesy of Joey Leh)
Sunset at Buttonwillow (Photo Courtesy of Joey Leh)