World-first gaming controller operated Nissan GT-R achieves 130+mph run around Silverstone.
A few millimetres of button movement or joystick travel are all it takes to unleash the GT-R’s full power. The remote-control vehicle is capable of a top speed of 196mph – not restricted for the purpose of the project car – with no one sitting behind the wheel.
The GT-R /C was put through its paces by NISMO racing driver Jann Mardenborough, around Silverstone’s famous National Circuit. Jann controlled the GT-R /C from the cockpit of a Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter, which had been given special permission to operate at a low altitude.
Mardenborough is one of the most successful winners of GT Academy, Nissan’s revolutionary driver discovery and development programme. Jann was approached to be the first driver of the GT-R /C because of his unrivalled talent in both Gran Turismo gaming and real-life motorsport.
Nissan has brought ingenuity and innovation to motorsport for more than 80 years, fusing technology with performance to maintain a competitive edge. Since 2008, Nissan has also made motorsport more accessible to everyone with GT Academy turning amateur gamers into professional racing drivers.
The GT-R /C was engineered in the UK by JLB Design Ltd., using a standard-spec 542bhp V6-powered 2011 R35 – the same year Jann Mardenborough won GT Academy.
On Mardenborough’s fastest lap (1:17:47), the GT-R /C averaged 76mph/122kph and reached a top speed of 131mph/211kph – the ‘driven’ average for the 1.6mile/2.6km loop circuit is around 83mph/134kph.
The GT-R /C is fitted with four robots that operate the steering, transmission, brakes and throttle. Six computers mounted in the boot update the controls at up to 100 times a second. The steering position is measured to one part in 65,000.
The unmodified DualShock®4 connects to a micro-computer which interprets the joystick and button signals and transmits them to the GT-R /C’s on-board systems. The wireless operation has a primary control range of one kilometre.
To help Mardenborough judge the vehicle’s speed through the corners, a Racelogic VBOX Motorsport sensor was installed to relay speed data to a LCD display in the helicopter cockpit.
The GT-R /C is also fitted with two independent safety systems, operating on different radio frequencies, which allow two additional operators to apply full ABS braking and cut the engine in the event of the main operator losing control of the vehicle.
James Brighton, JLB Design Ltd commented; “The GT-R /C presented some unique challenges and a number of engineering firsts for us. We had to ensure the robotics would operate effectively during fast acceleration/deceleration as well as high cornering g-forces; deliver realistic and reassuring control of the car at all speeds; and maintain a robust connection between the car and the DualShock®4 over variable distances and with minimal latency in robot response times.
Jann Mardenborough added; “This was once-in-a-lifetime, truly epic stuff. 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. JLB Design has done an incredible job at making everything respond really well.
“Steering, acceleration and braking were all intelligently configured, 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 131mph at Silverstone whilst chasing it down in a helicopter was an unforgettable experience. Now that’s innovation that excites!”
In 2018, the Nissan GT-R /C will be used in a tour of primary and secondary schools in the UK to promote future careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects.