Silverstone, Northamptonshire - Nissan found a unique way to celebrating the release of Gran Turismo Sport, out in Europe next week, and its 20 years of involvement in the series; it built the ultimate radio-control car.
This is the Nissan GT-R/C, a full-size, unrestricted, 2011-model R35, capable of 313km/h, modified to be driven remotely entirely by a DualShock®4 controller. All it takes is small movements of button and joystick to unleash its 404kW and send it howling around the circuit - with nobody at the wheel .
The GT-R/C was modified by JLB Design with four robot servos to operate the steering, transmission, brakes and throttle. Six computers the boot update the controls up to 100 times a second; the steering position is measured to one part in 65 000.
The DualShock4 controller, by contrast, is completely standard; it’s connected to a small computer that transmits the joystick and button signals to the GT-R /C’s on-board systems via a radio link with a primary control range of one kilometre. A Racelogic VBox Motorsport sensor relays speed data to the ‘remote’ driver.
That was GT Academy graduate and current works Nismo driver Jann Mardenborough, who got the gig because of his proven talent in both Gran Turismo gaming and real-life motorsport. But Mardenborough still had to see where the car was going, so special permission was obtained from Air Traffic Control to fly a Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter at illegally low altitude over the circuit, with Mardenborough, the DualShock4 controller and the Racelogic LCD display on board.
And, just in case, the GT-R/C was also fitted with two independent safety systems, operating on different radio frequencies, so that either of two backup operators could cut the engine and hit the brakes if Mardenborough lost control
James Brighton, JLB Design’s James Brighton said: “The GT-R /C presented some unique challenges and a number of engineering firsts for us. We had to ensure the robotics would work properly during fast acceleration and high lateral g-forces, they had to deliver realistic control of the car at all speeds, and the connection the car and the DualShock4 controller had to be fast and reliable.”
And the result?
Mardenborough’s best lap of the 2.6 Silverstone loop circuit was 1m17.47, averaging 122km/h and hitting a top speed of 211km/h. That’s about six seconds slower than you could expect of an R35 with the driver on board.
“This was once-in-a-lifetime, truly epic stuff,” Mardenborough said. “The GT-R /C has brought my two worlds together - the virtual of gaming and the reality of motorsport - in a way I never thought possible.
“The response from the car when using the controller was far more engaging than I thought it would be. Steering, acceleration and braking all allowing for controlled application so I could really get a feel through the corners and hold it steady down the fast straights.
“Driving a full-size, remote-control GT-R to 211km/h while chasing it down in a helicopter was an unforgettable experience!”
Next year the GT-R/C will be used on a tour of primary and secondary schools in the UK to promote future careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.