There are several racing series and classes in South Africa. To compete in some of them can cost several million rand for the car alone, not to mention general running costs. But what if you can have just as much fun for a whole lot less money?
Words and pictures: Wilhelm Lutjeharms
Divan Luzmore’s road with Porsche and racing cars is an interesting one. Following several years at Porsche Centre Cape Town, he moved to the UK to gain more experience with the marque. He eventually returned to Cape Town where he completed another stint with the German manufacturer.
However, one thing led to another and with the help of a number of people, he started GT Clubsport which runs and maintains Porsche (and other) race cars, but which also focuses on road cars and at times even classics. The success of André Bezuidenhout's Gould GR55 at the Simola Hill Climb is partly attributable to Divan and his team.
During the past few months more affordable race cars have been entering his workshop and pit garage at Killarney Raceway, though...
The first Nissan 350Z that Divan bought was one he actually found at Killarney in Cape Town. The original 350Z race cars were developed locally by Glyn Hall and his team a decade-and-a-half ago, and Divan looked at those closely and executed the same principles on the car he bought. “The first thing we did was to fit a proper roll cage, as safety is of utmost importance. Then we looked into installing upgraded shocks and brakes, but at all times we tried to keep it relatively affordable. We actually use the road car’s original Brembo calipers, as they work rather well, but we have improved the cooling.
“When we tested the car, it made around 200 kW, which is basically the same figure as a stock 350Z. We obviously took out all unnecessary equipment to lower the weight as much as possible. From the start it was clear that the base of this car featured a great chassis and that was a great platform for a racing car. We also replaced all the rubber bushes. Specialists in America have already done a lot of the development work. So, you can buy a kit that includes all the necessary new bushes and mounts made from polyurethane.
“The tyre setup is a what we call a square setup, meaning all the tyres on all four corners are the same size, around a 280 width. Obviously, the result is that the car offers a higher level of lateral grip and that means the oil pick-up could not keep up through the corners. We developed a deeper oil sump with a baffle and we also included an oil cooler which increased the total amount of oil from 5 to around 7 litres. We’ve learned from working on the Porsches over the years, as they use almost 10 litres of oil.
“What impressed me with my client’s car, which I worked on first, is that I noticed that pads needed to be replaced now and then, and of course when the slicks were done, we’d put on new set of racing tyres… and that was it! I thought to myself that I’ve been in this game for 12 years, and if this was the only main expense that there was, then I want to be part of it and also do it!
“After I got my car, a couple of other drivers indicated but they wanted to join and do this with us. So, we sat down and decided what the recipe for the cars would be going forward. Apart from the brake and tyre setups, the cars are all around the 1 300 kg mark and they produce between 240 and 245 kW. The VQ35DE engine is really very reliable if you manage the engine oil temperature and pressure. The gearbox is strong and well-built.
“With 200 kW the cars were just a little too slow. With the first car we realised that if we took off the head of the engine, and just did some minor work to it together with a mild set of camshafts, then we were already close to where we wanted to be in terms of power. Together with an uprated induction system and exhaust manifold, we were happy with the result. After this work the car can easily do a 1:21-second time around Killarney. Recently I tried my very best to see what my car could do, and I managed to achieve a 1:19.4-second time.
“Often in racing the faster cars are far ahead, but now we have a few 350Zs and their drivers will do times between 1:20 and 1:24, which means it is enjoyable for them to race together and challenge each other."
The project and pricing
“I’ve divided the project into boxes that can be ticked. Many of the guys want to focus on power delivery first. However, my approach is always to learn the car with every incremental improvement. This means, firstly, making it safer and lighter, then doing the brakes, then the handling and only at the end the engine and the bump-up in power.”
Divan is now running four 350Zs, one being his own and three clients’ cars. The price of one of these cars, which include a donor car which costs around R150 000, is around the R500 000 mark, as there is about R350 000 worth of parts and labour that go into a car to get it race-ready.
“We have seen that we can do half a season with the brakes, while the discs can last for as long as two seasons, sometimes. The result is that the car is economical to run. We try to develop a class within a series with these cars. The benefit is that one can do endurance, Sports & GT, Clubmans and you can even do hill climbs with them.”