Nissan reveals a radical Le Mans racer

By Bob Nagy on February 3, 2015 9:09 AM

The 2016 Maxima wasn't the only new Nissan featured in the automaker's Super Bowl ad. We also got a glimpse of the new Nissan GT-R LM Nismo. Spun from the fertile mind of designer and team principal/tech director Ben Bowlby (who was also responsible for the original Nissan DeltaWing and ZEOD RC), this new Le Mans Prototype from Nissan's global racing operation breaks with convention. For openers, this P1 competitor features a unique front-engine/front-drive configuration and a hybrid powertrain that matches a gasoline-fired/direct-injected 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 with a flywheel-based Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS). That combo is expected to generate upwards of 1,250 total horsepower in race trim while burning about 30 percent less fuel compared to the engine used in Nissan's 2014 Le Mans car. 

Planning for a faster future 

Bowlby's dramatic rethink - which also envisions an all-wheel drive variation  - opens the door for other innovations on this high-velocity  "laboratory for the GT-R of the future," including huge internal air channels that run through the entire body to effectively optimize the car's aero profile. The slick body makes it easier to reach speeds of nearly 225 mph. While retaining state-of-the-art carbon composite structure and bodywork that help it meet a 1,940-lb minimum weight, the GT-R LM Nismo's unconventional design brings about a major forward shift in mass that helps keep the front end more securely planted while setting the driver even farther back towards the rear axle. Track contact is maintained by 14-inch-wide Michelin race rubber on 18-inch forged magnesium BBS center-lock alloys up front that are paired with 9-inch wide rear tires on 16-inch rims.

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Affixed to the front bulkhead of the cabin area, the force-fed V6 in this Le Mans prototype attaches directly to a forward-mounted/paddle-shifted 5-speed sequential manual transmission and sends exhaust gases out through twin flow-channeling outlets in the hood. The car's flywheel-type energy recovery system hardware resides beneath a raised floor area under the driver's legs. Designed to cull energy from the front axle during coasting and braking, it has the potential to release that motive force to either end of the car should experience prove the AWD alternative more effective. 

Moving from the raceway to the road 

Built in the U.S. at Dan Gurney's All American Racers operation in California and supported by a hand-picked team of experts, the Nissan GT-R LM Nismo will contest the entire 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship Series that kicks off with a 6-hour event at Silverstone, England in April. Beyond attempting to earn Nissan its first-ever overall win at Le Mans in June, the GT-R LM Nismo has a larger mission. "The GT-R is our flagship road car. This, the ultimate GT-R, continues a sporting bloodline that goes back three decades with Nismo," noted Roel de Vries, global head of marketing and brand strategy at Nissan. "It is firmly our intention that technology developed on the LM P1 car will transfer to Nissan road cars." According to de Vries, that includes not only its new efficient V6 but also some variation of the performance-enhancing KERS setup. 

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