Nissan Sentra Cup: behind the wheel of a racing car

Nissan Sentra Cup: behind the wheel of a racing car


Nissan Sentra Cup | Photo: Daniel Rufiange

Nissan Sentra has been on the market for 40 years, ie 1983 (arrived in 1982). She is part of a dying breed of models who stand the test of time.

The Nissan compact has gone through all kinds of periods in its history. Sometimes he was the star of the series, sometimes he played the role of a deleted product, practically forgotten, or at least a victim of the image thrown at him by other models in the family, or elsewhere in the segment.

Since December 2019, the Sentra has once again become a very attractive car thanks to a very successful redesign. So much so that it was considered and chosen to replace the Micra in Nissan’s one-of-a-kind series featuring largely similar products.

Nissan Micra Coupe was launched in 2015, but with the suspension of the model from the market, a replacement had to be found. Thus, the Nissan Sentra Cup was born last year. It begins its second full season this year and offers lovers and amateurs the chance to race in the professional series, at a reasonable price.

In anticipation of the start of the season, which takes place during the Patriots’ Day weekend, Nissan invited us to test the car on the track, to see what it had in the body. And, above all, what was offered that was different from the version that you can find on the road.

We tell you about our experience at the track below, but first, take a look at what’s been modified to take the Sentra from the road to the track.

Nissan Sentra Cup | Photo: Daniel Rufiange

The foundation

The version that served as the basis for the race car was… the base version of the Sentra, the manual S model. At the dealer, you finally get your hands on $20,000. Yes, there is still a car at this price, even if it has become very rare.

For twice, you can get a racing car. No, you can’t drive it on public roads, although the experience will be intoxicating. Why? For many reasons, but mainly because the modifications made to the race car mean that it will no longer be legal.

Just mention the removal of airbags and the many alerts and safety features that can come into play during a race. Add to that a protective cage and tires without grooves.

In fact, as Carl Hermez of Motorsports In Action, the group responsible for the Sentra’s changes, explained to us, the modifications, while minor, have a big impact on the car’s handling.

“The goal was to keep conversion costs to a minimum to make the car and series affordable, but there was still work to be done to get the performance factor right there. »

Therefore, this Sentra benefits from the front brakes from the NISMO version of the sporty 370Z (sport package). At the back, the drum discs from the Sentra for the road were replaced with rear disc brakes from the Z. As for the suspension, it had to be designed and measured properly so that on the track, the car would stick to the road. Up front, we end up with a coilover-type setup, which allows more adjustments for testing. At the rear, the approach is the same as the factory with different shocks and springs. As for the exhaust, from the catalyst, we get a performance package to the rear, which changes the sound of the car and adds some horsepower to the equation. It remains small, however.

In addition, the wheels, the cage, the steering wheel (with orientation), and the rear camera that remains permanently functional (acting as a mirror), appear in the change menu. Oh yes, a circuit breaker has also been added for safety concerns in the event of an accident.

That’s a lot, but car racing has certain requirements that must be met.

That’s why Motorsports In Action took a year to build and test the car before it was ready for the track. And all this in times of crisis.

Nissan Sentra Cup | Photo: Daniel Rufiange

On the song

And what does it look like in the song?

What’s fun when you get into the car is to see the marriage between a regular model and the one you bully on the circuit. So, a person slides into a racing seat past the protective cage. Then we put on a removable steering wheel, and then we let the expert wrap us up like a grocery store ham, because with the hood, we can’t see anything.

At least for the founder that is your humble servant. Valérie Limoges, one of the regular pilots in the series, and who accompanied us in the passenger seat (what bravery!) for the exercise, explained that we end up there with a little practice and experience.

At the same time, in addition to the molded seat, sitting too low and not enjoying the usual vision inside the Sentra, we notice the same dashboard, the same gear selector and six-speed manual transmission. It’s close, at first, to driving a street car. However, we quickly understand that the experience will be different, because even before arriving at the circuit, we understand that the suspension will have the ability to remove us from our beautiful roads. On the smooth surface of the track, however, all is appointed.

In the menu of this experiment, four cycles. Due to very cold temperatures on May 17, caution required some restriction during the first laps. That’s good, their turn recognition and maneuvering was important. For the last two always, I had the opportunity to push the car step by step to see what was in the body. What struck me the most was the grip of the tires and the fact that the suspension keeps them on the pavement, literally. And even borrowing vibrators is not enough to make her restless.

Let’s just say that after my four rounds, I started to feel better and that I would take more. It’s easy to imagine happy drivers with this car.

As a viewer, it is interesting to know that everyone uses the opportunity of one car to show us their talent. The freedom given to drivers and teams comes from adjusting the front suspension (wheel camber) and tire pressure.

The second season of the Nissan Sentra Cup will begin the weekend of May 21-22 at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, better known as Mosport, Ontario.

In total, six race weekends are scheduled for 12 events, including a stop at the Gilles Villeneuve circuit in Montreal as part of the Formula 1 Grand Prix activities on June 17, 18 and 19. Mont-Tremblant track (2), Trois-Rivières The Grand Prix and the second stop at Mosport will serve to complete the calendar.

And if you’re interested, the race is being streamed live on the Nissan Sentra Cup Facebook page.

To get more information about the series, you can consult the final website at https://www.coupesentra.com/2022-Coupe-Sentra-Calendrier-Saison-Course-Quebec-Canada

Nissan Sentra Cup | Photo: Daniel Rufiange

Nissan Sentra Cup | Photo: Daniel Rufiange

Nissan Sentra Cup | Photo: Daniel Rufiange

Nissan Sentra Cup | Photo: Daniel Rufiange

Nissan Sentra Cup | Photo: Daniel Rufiange

Nissan Sentra Cup | Photo: Daniel Rufiange

Nissan Sentra Cup | Photo: Daniel Rufiange

Nissan Sentra Cup | Photo: Daniel Rufiange

Nissan Sentra Cup | Photo: Daniel Rufiange

Nissan Sentra Cup | Photo: Daniel Rufiange

Valerie Limoges Photo: Daniel Rufiange