Big, smoky start, slow down for the deceptive left at Molecombe. That’s the advice left ringing in my ears by all and sundry as I await my turn on the famous hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. It’s taken an age to get to this point. Over 33 years, in fact, but the hour in the paddock and 20 minutes in the queue make it feel as though my birthdays have at least doubled since the door of the Nissan 370Z Nismo swung shut.
That would make me about a million years older than the race-suited waif next to me. Lucas Ordonez may not be a household name outside of the FIA GT Series, but he’s well known to legions of Gran Turismo fans as the first graduate of Nissan’s innovative race academy, which continues to pluck potential motorsport talent from sofa-bound gamers.
Now five years in the business, Ordonez is utterly indivisible from any of the other slender professionals forced by manufacturers or sponsors to share a car with sweaty hacks for a minute of Goodwood hustle. Thankfully corporate responsibility hasn’t completely knocked the good humor out of him; on the way to the line, doubtless recognising some last-second jitters, the Spaniard yanks up the Nissan’s handbrake with a sly giggle.
And so, with “f*** off, Lucas” still hanging in the air and the marshal’s hand dropped, we scurry away from the line. If I’d been given the option to pick from Nissan’s two available charges on the day two hours earlier, I would have selected the GT-R for its general invulnerability to ham-fisted input, but the obvious advantage of the 370Z is the 339bhp Nissan still sends completely unfettered to the rear wheels.
These have actually been enlarged as part of the Nismo package, although it doesn’t stop them from spilling traction like a locomotive on leaves. Lucas applauds the effort and then settles down to 60 seconds of waving, interspersed with clipped say-what-you-can-see navigation. I acknowledge the crowd only as brightly coloured background, and concentrate solely on cocking up the established racing line.
Following my pre-laid plan of gunning it on the straights like Cole Trickle and then slowing for the corners like Hoke Colborn, we easily make it to the summit in one slow-moving piece. As Lucas scuttles off for a well-earned lunch and we all endure another interminable delay, I consider our carriage. Despite the attentions of Nismo, the 370Z seems much the same as it was before: amenably brawny, stubbornly old-fashioned, slightly woolly in the face of far swifter opposition and not quite as good-looking as it ever deserved to be. No wonder I feel right at home.