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2003 Infiniti G35 Coupe - “The 1200 Miles Of Sebring”

With ALMS at Sebring Raceway showing Mike De La Cruz the light, the car of his dreams later became a reality.

By: Brady Dohrmann, Mike Maez

It’s hard to say exactly how many Infiniti G35 coupes were sold in 2003 without doing a lot of research, but it is fair to say that when the first generation G35 was unveiled, new ground was broken for Infiniti’s vehicle lineup. The G35 sedan was a huge improvement for Infiniti and led the way towards their brand’s own revolution. The G35 Coupe solidified Infiniti’s position in the market as a car company that is capable of making luxurious, yet sporty vehicles. Since it retained essentially the same platform and drive train as the 350Z, it is easy to understand why Nissan’s assembly plant in Tochigi, Japan couldn’t stamp out G35 Coupe body panels fast enough.

One of the first G35 Coupes to hit the US shores, 7,100 miles away from the womb where it was created, landed near Mike De La Cruz’s hometown of Vero Beach, Florida. When Mike first saw the G35 Coupe in person, he knew it was his density. One of the first things Mike said about his G35 Coupe project to us was, “I wanted to wait until it was paid off before I started modifying it.” There was a brief pause from both parties, an uncomfortable silence, and then simultaneous laughs that ensued on both ends as the interview progressed. Good one, Mike!

It took two months for the Infiniti to float across the Pacific Ocean and make its way to Florida. It took two weeks for Mike to stop by his local speed shop to pick up some parts and start modifying it. A year later, the G35 lost its virginity when it first entered the circuit at Sebring International Raceway. Many Floridians will say that the road racing scene in the Sunshine State isn’t as huge as it is further up the east coast or out west in southern California. What Florida residents do get a taste of however are the exotic, professional road racing series such as Grand Am in the 24 Hours of Daytona and of course the prestigious ALMS stop at Sebring for the 12-hour race. When upgrading the G35 Coupe Mike was influenced by the simplicity, functionality, and high-tech gadgetry that propel the GT-class cars around the track. Simple, yet functional modifications to Mike’s car such as the aluminum rear diffuser panels, front under tray, and super-rigid chromoly cage carry over several similar traits from professional ALMS racers.

By the time Mike settled into his G’s newfound ownership, he began researching outlets not only for driving the car in a high performance environment, but also for ways to test the modifications he had been making to the car. With an SGP Racing built motor pumping out 570whp and 540 ft-lbs of torque at 17psi, it was clear that a safer venue to test out the car was definitely needed. Sebring International Raceway, famous for the 12-hour race every year, is just a quick drive from Mike’s home on the beach. Mike eventually moved up the ranks and settled into his new lifestyle with the National Autosports Association (NASA), participating on a regular basis in the TTU class within their nationally-sanctioned Time Trial program. To this day, Mike has logged over 1200 miles around Sebring in the G35.

With 3.7 miles in total length, Sebring Raceway is located on a World War II runway system with an original surface that earned a reputation for having long straights and the biggest bumps in the country, making it the perfect venue for fine tuning every aspect of the G35 Coupe. The twin turbo VQ35DE is completely built: balanced crankshaft, CP pistons, Carillo rods, bored and honed block, JWT camshafts, HKS head gaskets, Nissan “RevUp” oil pump, polished everything and a trick twin turbo system utilizing Greddy TD05-18G turbo chargers tuned to run as much as 22psi. “I bought this car and quickly decided I was going to make it into a race car,” said Mike regarding his long-term plan for the G35 Coupe. Surely the “race car” label is tossed around a lot these days – but Mike wasn’t kidding – proving it when he cut a hole in the floor to accommodate the 15-gallon Fuel Safe fuel cell and installing a giant custom double-pass radiator along with a fire suppression system to boot.

By Brady Dohrmann, Mike Maez
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