Former national Formula GTi Challenge champion Marco da Cunha has mixed feelings about the upcoming round three of the Bridgestone Production Car Championship at Port Elizabeth’s Aldo Scribante circuit on April 30.
The Exa Nissan Dealer Team driver will be making his final appearance in the Tubular/R&A Cellular Nissan 350Z, which has spearheaded the team’s challenge in the championship since 2007. Round four at Welkom’s Phakisa Freeway in the Free State on June 4 should see the debut of a radical new contender from Exa Nissan, a supercharged Nissan 370Z.
“I can’t wait to get my hands on the steering wheel of the new 370Z,” admitted Marco with evident enthusiasm. “While the 350Z has been a fantastic car to race, it has long ago been superceded by the latest versions of our BMW, Audi and Subaru rivals and we have had our backs to the wall on just about every circuit in the country. With the 370Z we will finally have a car in which we can compete on equal terms.
“Because we’ve been at a distinct disadvantage to the forced induction and four-wheel drive cars we’ve had to concentrate on developing a car that really handles well and makes the most of what power it has. Right now, the 350Z probably handles better than any other car and we’ve been able to put this to good use whenever we’ve found ourselves on the front row of the grid, thanks to the reverse grid rule that applies in production car racing.
“I’ve developed a soft spot for this car in the four years I have been driving it and I’ve really enjoyed the two wins I’ve had at Killarney (in 2010 and most recently in round two on April 2).
Team principal Grant van Schalkwyk confirms that the all-new 370Z should be ready for action in the Free State in a month’s time. “It’s a radical design and we’ll be setting a trend, thanks to the foresight of the series controllers,” said the reigning South African land speed record holder.
“The decision to allow superchargers to be fitted to normally aspirated production cars in class A has opened up the series to manufacturers who don’t have standard production forced induction cars. It’s good for the sport and presents a great marketing opportunity to attract new entrants.”
Returning to the job at hand, Van Schalkwyk said the team had put in a lot of time and effort preparing the two Tubular/R&A Cellular 350Zs for Marco and younger brother Paulo for the Port Elizabeth races. Paulo, who has been driving the second 350Z since late last year, will continue with his car until the team is able to build a second 370Z.
“While we’ll again be on the back foot this weekend in terms of sheer pace, we will be looking to maximise our handling advantage and our ability to manage tyre wear better than most on the traditionally abrasive Aldo Scribante circuit. As Marco has shown twice in the last 12 months at Killarney, starting from the front row of the grid in a short sprint we have every chance of bagging a victory.”
STORY COURTESY OF PETER BURROUGHES COMMUNICATIONS