I had never met the guy or even heard of his reputation. To be honest I was a little bewildered by the fuss everyone was making.
So when I turned up and was ushered into a room to watch the presentation, I had no preconceptions. Neither did the journalists with me. So we watched Mizuno’s speech with a combination of amusement and enthrallment.
The presentation was very Japanese in style and Mizuno’s English was heavily-accented, so you had to really concentrate to understand what was being said. Even more so because it seemed as though most of the time he was apparently trashing conventional engineering thinking and mocking the work of all Nissan competitors. Surely there’s some misunderstanding?
But there was no misunderstanding. He drew a lot of diagrams, showing that other car makers try and cram V8 engines into bodyshells made for a 1.8 diesel, or start with the V8 engine and design a car around it. In contrast he told us how he started with the tyre, designed ways to make sure it was kept in contact with the ground as much as possible to provide the maximum grip and then created an engine which perfectly matched the amount of power that could be put onto the road. He said any other way seemed crazy to him.
‘And he went about creating it with a clean sheet and no compromises. There’s no doubt it works, too.’
Every year there is an improvement to the GT-R because he works out a better way of improving the grip – either through new tyre technology or developments in the chassis. And then he increases the engine power accordingly to match the new grip level.
An example of his perfectionism? He changed the spring and damper settings on the offside of right-hand-drive cars to compensate for the additional weight of the steering column and instrument panel. I could go on for hours with more examples – my favourite was using leather which can only come from cows slaughtered in summer. But I’m sure a lot of it will come out in the interviews which are hitting the presses about now.
After hearing him – and driving the new car – everyone there came away convinced that the guy was an obsessive, compulsive genius. He was tasked with making the fastest possible road car which customers can use everyday. And he went about creating it with a clean sheet and no compromises. There’s no doubt it works, too.
I’m convinced that the event has turned media opinion of GT-R from being a somewhat cold, clinical computer of a car into the fruit of an eccentric, maverick genius. This could be a key change for the GT-R. Not only is it faster than almost every other car in the world; it’s been created with a level of passion and obsession which no other car can match.