The essence of Z-ness #3
Tsugio Matsuda, GT500 Race Driver
We’re mixing things up slightly with our series of The essence of Z-ness. This time, we spoke with professional race driver Tsugio Matsuda, who is not only a seasoned GT500 Nissan race driver, Matsuda also assisted in developing the Z Proto’s instrument panel.
Matsuda burst onto the Japanese motorsports scene when he finished second in the 2002 All Japan Grand Touring Car Championships. He joined Nissan in Super GT in 2006, winning at Autopolis that same year. He followed that with back-to-back Formula Nippon championships in 2007 and 2008, and back-to-back Super GT series GT500 class championships in 2014 and 2015. Currently, Matsuda has the most wins in the Super GT series, with 22 victories, and aims toward his 23rd in the 2021 season.
Q: How did you get involved with the Z project?
Matsuda: Hiroshi Tamura, the chief product specialist of the Z, approached me and mentioned that he wanted to give the next Z a distinct racing flavor. Because of my experience in GT racing, and the fact that I perform lots of on-track testing, he specifically wanted to know what I thought was important when driving hard on the race track. I told him that the instrument gauges in racecars tend to make a big difference for timing your upshifts.
Q: What advice did you give exactly?
Matsuda: Our racecars are equipped with shift lights that indicate when to upshift when optimal rpm is reached. The light sequence usually goes from green to yellow to red, with red telling the driver to shift to the next gear. I told Tamura-san that I wanted to see this in the next Z.
I also wanted the redline on the tachometer to be at the top (at the 12-o’clock position), so when the shift light turns red it does so at the same time the tachometer needle is reaching redline. When you’re driving hard, the bottom area of the tachometer doesn’t come into view, but having that redline at the top near the shift light makes the needle easily visible at the most crucial time. This also makes it easier to avoid over revving, which can be harmful to your lap times and engine.