IRVINE, Calif. - Construction of the first Nissan ZEOD RC chassis is nearing completion, and the ground-breaking car that will "electrify Le Mans" is set to hit the track for the first time in the UK in early September.
After the recent completion of the car's carbon fiber tub, a team of Nissan engineers has worked around the clock in the UK to finish the inaugural car build and fit the twin electric engines that will initially power the car.
Spaniard Lucas Ordóñez was announced last week as the official test and development driver for the program at the Nissan 360 global media event in California.
The 28-year-old Spaniard was the inaugural Nissan PlayStation GT Academy winner and this year recently scored a third place class finish at the Spa-Francorchamps 24-hour.
Ordóñez will climb aboard the Nissan ZEOD RC for the first time next week when his custom-molded seat will be manufactured. When the car hits the track for the first time, the ZEOD RC will run in pure electric mode with zero emissions.
Throughout the course of the development program, Nissan will test a number of "electrified" drive train options before locking in its package for next year's Le Mans 24 Hour.
"We're at a very exciting time in the development of the car and ready to kick off what will be an extensive test program between now and when we roll out the pit lane for the first time at Le Mans next year," said Nissan's Global Motorsport Director, Darren Cox.
"Just developing a single power train option in only twelve months would be a mammoth task but we're looking to carefully examine a number of options to ascertain which will be best suited for Le Mans.
"But it is not just about what is going to be best for the race. We're developing technologies that will speed up development of road cars in the future. The Le Mans 24 Hour is the toughest endurance event in the world and by participating in the event we can really fast track the development of some of these technologies."
The target of competing at next year's Le Mans 24 Hour is only the first step of a number of challenges Nissan is going to set for the innovative ZEOD RC program.
With Lord Paul Drayson recently setting a new FIA land speed record for electric vehicles under 1000kg, the Nissan ZEOD RC now has a new benchmark to aim for.
"While we're aiming to reach 300km/h (186mph) under electric power at Le Mans, the Nissan ZEOD RC certainly has the capability to go faster than that in a land speed record configuration situation," Nissan's Director of Motorsport Innovation, Ben Bowlby said.
"At the Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans you have to have the right gear ratios installed to pull the car out of corners and chicanes. You don't have a 'flying mile' with a long run-up before you enter the timing zone for a land speed record attempt.
"But that could potentially be our next target post Le Mans. Taking the Nissan ZEOD RC to Le Mans and becoming the first car to complete the entire 8.5 mile circuit is our first target."
Nissan's invitation from the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) to compete in the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours was announced by Nissan Chairman and CEO, Carlos Ghosn in Japan in February this year. The car will compete under the ACO's 'Garage 56' entry – an additional spot on the grid for vehicles that showcase new and innovative technology.
Nissan has partnered with French tire manufacturer Michelin to produce tires for the new prototype. Nissan previously joined forces with Michelin on the Nissan DeltaWing program.