Nissan thinks it can use its recent experience building a Le Mans prototype in its Formula E electric racing program. That’s interesting, because the experience was centered around the GT-R LM Nismo, a radical front-wheel-drive prototype that never raced with a functional hybrid system. You know, the part that’s usually electrical.
Formula E will be Nissan’s first venture back into the top levels of international motorsport since that Le Mans team closed up shop in 2015. It’s nice to hear Nismo motorsport head Michael Carcamo at least say they’ve learned from their experience, but how much, exactly?
Michael Carcamo, boss of Nissan’s motorsport arm NISMO, told Motorsport.com that it would utilize information from “every program, whether it’s Super GT or LMP1 or DPi.”
“We have engineers in all of those programs and we can grab all of their knowledge,” he said.
“[In LMP1] some of the learnings are technical, about specific technologies, what worked and didn’t, what kind of reinforcements you need in what areas.
“There’s a lot on best practices, on how to put an organization together, what works across large distances, how to put people together in a good working environment to get success.”
And oh boy, they have a lot of data points on what didn’t work from the LMP1 program. That car was never given enough time in development, which delayed its entry into racing as Nissan scrambled just to get it functional.
When the GT-R LM Nismo finally showed up to race, the flywheel-based kinetic energy recovery system never worked quite right, leaving Nissan with a car that was woefully down on horsepower and unreliable at Le Mans. The team went back into testing after Le Mans, but never resurfaced again. The team quietly shuttered its operations at the end of the year, letting many staffers go via email.
Fortunately, this time, Nissan will start off with a fully-functional, established team in Formula E. They’re taking Renault’s place as the partner for the e.dams team, which has three teams’ championships to their name in Formula E. The Nissan e.dams team is expected to continue using Renault’s technology through their first 2019-2020 season, Motorsport.com notes.
Carcamo also mentioned all the work Nissan’s road car side has been doing on the second-gen Leaf to Motorsport.com, which will hopefully provide them with some additional EV research and development resources to use in Formula E. He also noted that Nissan has an extensive pool of factory drivers to potentially bump up to the Formula E team, but e.dams drivers Nico Prost and Sébastien Buemi are expected to stay put for now.
I want to believe that Nissan might have a good team. It’d be a decent redemption story, after all. Formula E’s budget is a fraction of what a competitive LMP1 would have been, so maybe there’s a chance.
But I may remain skeptical until I see them stick with Formula E for a little while, give it the proper amount of funding and attention and hopefully not drop the program at the slightest sign of adversity. Nissan’s last motorsport flop is still a bit too fresh in everyone’s minds.
Correction [1/3]: We originally referred to the flywheel KERS for the hybrid system as “electrical,” although this particular KERS system was a completely mechanical. (Maybe they should’ve used a regular electrical one!) For clarity’s sake, we’ve edited this above. [H/T Bakkster!]