The hot and heavy three-way battle among Porsche, Audi and Toyota in the LeMans Prototype One race class just got a lot steamier. Nissan just pulled back the silk sheets on its contender to World Endurance Championship racing: the 2015 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO.
And boy does it go its own way to achieving massive speed and impact, while sticking to the very expansive fuel usage rules of LeMans racing.
The biggest shocker is not that it is a hybrid twin-turbo-charged V6 making 1250-horsepower. It shocks with where that engine sits, and where it delivers its power.
The engine lives in front and drives the front wheels exclusively.
A kinetic energy recovery system dubbed ERS is able to deploy massive pace boosts from harvesting power from brake heat and drivetrain friction, and this extra electric shove also appears to go to the front of the big Nissan.
We may be mistaken, but this could be first-ever front-drive LMP1 car. For nearly five decades, the template of all entries has been mid-engine and rear or, recently, AWD.
There may be a method to the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO's madness, however, with staggered tire sizes making the front rubber nearly five inches wider than the rears: 14-inches plays 9-inches in back. This makes sense with the enormous stresses put on the front wheels to handle braking, steering and now also power delivery and energy recovery.
The style of the new LMP1 contender is similarly otherworldly. It is a pronounced long-nose design, with a mini bubble cockpit three-quarters of the way back and a tiny tail with the latest aero wings in place.
It is exciting to see Nissan take such a bold leap of faith to enter LMP1 at all, and doing so with this outrageous drivetrain makes it even more intriguing.
Track time will tell how the new GT-R LM Nismo fares on the track versus the killer Audi and Toyota teams, as wells as the Porsche 919 Hybrid -- with is back this year with subtle changes but the same V-4 turbo gasoline engines that failed mid-way through the 2014 race.
Whatever happens, and all suggestive entendres aside, it will be an extra exciting LeMans and WEC season this year with the phallic Nissan thrusting for glory in this new four-way race to the title.
2015 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO
NISSAN GT-R LM NISMO
Nissan VRX 30A NISMO: 3.0 litre, 60 degree V6, direct injection gasoline twin-turbo
5-speed + reverse sequential gearbox with pneumatic paddle shift system. Epicyclic final drive reduction with hydraulic limited slip differential
Tilton 4-plate carbon clutch assembly
FIA Homologated weight: 880 kg. Right-hand driving position
68 litre capacity FT3 fuel tank featuring electric lift and feed pumps. ERS housed ahead and beneath driver’s feet in self-contained module.
Carbon-composite body panels. Polycarbonate windscreen with hard coating CFD and full scale wind tunnel developed ultra high efficiency bodywork geometry, adjustable rear wing.
Penske dampers with four-way adjustment front and rear, hydraulic rear anti-roll bar system.
6-piston front and 4-piston rear calipers. NISMO Brake-by-Wire active brake ERS blending. Driver adjustable brake bias.
BBS centre-lock, magnesium forged 16”x13” front and 16”x9” rear
Michelin 31/71-16 front, 20/71-16 rear radials
Cosworth engine control unit featuring: Engine control, gearbox control; Driver adjustable traction control, Anti-lag system control, Brake-by-wire, lift-and-coast fuel conservation, Drive-by-wire throttle control and ERS deployment strategy control
NISMO 5-point harness Lifeline lightweight extinguisher system
Data / display system
Cosworth Electronics with NISMO steering wheel mounted LCD
Minimum weight: 880kg
Full tank capacity: 68L
02 Feb 2015
Nissan: Taking on the best in the world
In 2015 Nissan will enter the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO into the full FIA World Endurance Championship, marking a return to the premier class at the Le Mans 24 Hours for the Japanese manufacturer. Nissan will challenge for victory with an innovative approach and with a truly exciting product that represents the next generation of the Nissan GT-R.
"We are excited to be going head-to-head with the best sports car racing manufacturers in the world," commented Roel de Vries, Global Head of Marketing and Brand Strategy at Nissan. "LM P1 is a proving ground for technological innovation, especially when it comes to the power sources of the future. In 2014 three different manufacturers using three different powertrain combinations won races. If you ever needed proof that LM P1 is the sharp end, this is it."
Nissan might have been absent from the top class at Le Mans for 16 years but the company has been very active in other categories, building an envied sports car ladder that runs from the new LM P3 category, through a world-beating engine supply programme in LM P2, and onto the top step to LM P1 via the ACO's clever ‘Garage 56' programme, a unique class at Le Mans reserved for innovative technology that falls outside of the normal regulations
"Our LM P3 engine supply programme is a new venture for us but if it is nearly as successful as our LM P2 programme we will be very proud of our achievements, said Shoichi Miyatani, President of NISMO. "Our LM P2 engine has powered teams to championship victories and class wins at Le Mans. Our Garage 56 projects have led us to LM P1 and the innovations that we have employed. Enormous lessons were learned from the very heavy hybridisation of the Nissan ZEOD RC and we've carried those lessons over into this project."
LM P1 cars are the most extreme sports cars in racing today so, for Nissan and NISMO, the opportunity to innovate at the highest level could not be missed.
"These cars represent the pinnacle of current racing technology: huge energy recovery systems, super fuel-efficient engines and wild aerodynamics, creating extremely fast cars for their weight and endurance, said Nissan's LM P1 Team Principal, Ben Bowlby. "These are 24-hour racing cars that cover practically a whole Formula One season in one Le Mans race. It's a very different challenge to F1 and much more relevant to what's going on in road cars. If you drive from say London to Edinburgh you expect the car to get through the miles and be fast, stable, comfortable and safe and provide the handling and grip you might need if you have to come off the motorway and take some back roads - that's the sort of challenge that Le Mans represents. It's all about having a fast, efficient and safe car."
The FIA World Endurance Championship provides manufacturers with the opportunity to develop new technologies for its road car range. With energy-efficiency being the key, there is no greater test for technology than a 24-hour endurance race where the gap between first and second place can be a matter of seconds after 24 hours of racing.
"It is firmly our intention that technology developed on the LM P1 car will transfer to Nissan road cars," said de Vries. "We are developing ultra-efficient V6 twin turbo of the configuration and lineage of the Nissan GT-R. This is a more efficient but equally powerful direct injection solution so it's a potential forerunner to future GT-R engines. Also the kinetic energy recovery technology that we're developing through racing could indeed have potential for future road car applications."
Nissan is a global car manufacturer so it makes sense that the LM P1 programme is a truly global project.
"The car was built in the US and will complete its initial test programme there before moving to Europe for the start of the FIA World Endurance Championship season," explained Miyatani. "Engineers and mechanics from Japan has been fully integrated into the programme and, just like any race team nowadays, we have selected our personnel from all over the world."
Taking on the best in the world and competing to win is a daunting task for Nissan. The competition is well-established and the racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship is ultra-close but this is a challenge that Nissan has accepted and the Nissan NISMO team will fight to get onto the top step of the podium like it has never fought before.
"All I want is to be sure that the team did its best," said Darren Cox, Global Head of Brand, Marketing & Sales, NISMO. "What we're aiming for is to have executed to the best of our ability and that's what we're focusing on. There's a lot we can't control, for example, we don't know where our rivals are going to be when we get to the first race. If we've all done our best I'll be delighted and good results will come if we continue to do our best. So our goals and targets are simply to do our best. I think that, as a group, our best will lead to some great results."