Top Gear chats to Mizuno-san: Mr GT-R
Kazutoshi Mizuno is engaging, funny and clever. He's also godfather of the legend that is the GT-R
Posted: 23 Feb 2012
"So, how do you make a car? I can show you a very easy example. Imagine a high-speed corner in an F1 car, and it is using the best tyres in the world. An F1 car weighs 560kg, more than 600kg with the driver. How much downforce does an F1 car generate? Currently, it is around 1,300kg. So what is the total weight? 1,860kg [about the same as a GT-R with the driver on board, coincidentally]. A GT1 racing car weighs between 1,200 and 1,300kg. Plus downforce of 600kg, the actual weight on the car is 1,800kg... you see, very easy!"
Mizuno is one of the reasons we love Japan and the Japanese car industry. Undoubtedly imbued with the ‘vision thing', somehow the vast corporate edifice that is Japanese big business finds room in its attic for characters like this. It's why the Nissan GT-R does what it does, and does it in a way utterly unlike any of its European or American rivals. So while I'mleft scratching my head in an effort to keep up with Mizuno's (occasionally rather fuzzy) logic, it's nothing compared to the sense of dislocation you feel when the GT-R hooks up and throws you out the other side of a wet corner at a velocity that seems not to twist physics so much as taunt it. There is a hint of madness to all this, but a big dollop of genius, too. Then you meet the man behind it, and things become clear. Well, mostly. "Tyre-grip load is the essence of performance," he says. "I want constant tyre-grip load on all four wheels, so balance is very important. That's why the GT-R has a front-mounted V6 and a rear transaxle. It is the best for balance. Everything starts with the amount of weight on all four wheels."
Mizuno even recounts an early career epiphany with astounding humility. "I started work at Nissan in 1972," he says; "I was always sleeping during working time, I didn't work too hard, I didn't work late nights. As a student, you see, I had designed a Formula Junior car. In Nissan, I was only in parts design, not car development. Between 1972 and 1975, I am a bad company person. So the company sent me to a dealer, and said, ‘Please study the customer.' I sell cars to handicapped people while I'm there. ‘Car is part of my life; it is a human,' they explain to me. My mind has a big change. I realised the most important thing is that the car is for a customer..."