Nissan's Bonkers Le Mans Prototype Isn't Dead, Is Working To Get Faster

Illustration for article titled Nissans Bonkers Le Mans Prototype Isnt Dead, Is Working To Get Faster

Rumors of the Nissan LMP1 program’s possible demise may have been a tad overblown. Not only was the GT-R LM Nismo out running laps at Circuit of the Americas, but they were testing out some interesting aerodynamic upgrades and meaty brake cooling ducts. Here’s a gallery for your up-close viewing pleasure, plus what the team is up to these days.

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Daily Sportscar tried investigating Nissan president and CEO Carlos Ghosn’s now somewhat infamous comments on the LMP1 program but couldn’t find a London Formula E press conference on record where Ghosn was featured.

They postulated that Ghosn likely made his statements in a less formal context than many outlets made it out to be. It’s seems plausible that “both being at the same Formula E function” got lost in translation from French to English to It’s FWD And Therefore I Hate It Guy-ese.

Illustration for article titled Nissans Bonkers Le Mans Prototype Isnt Dead, Is Working To Get Faster

Pointing out the many, many successful sportscar efforts that were a flop at their first Le Mans outing, Daily Sportscar concluded that much of the endurance-related media was making a mountain out of a really mundane, routine molehill.

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Of course a multinational corporation is going to review everything they’ve got their tentacles in—but it’d be silly to consider canning a project after only one race.

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That brings us to this week. Regardless if you believe the program is SUPER SKY-IS-FALLING WE’RE ALL DOOMED! or just in the painfully public process of working out the bumps with an attention-grabbing car in a 24/7 news-cycle world, here it is. Testing upgrades.

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Illustration for article titled Nissans Bonkers Le Mans Prototype Isnt Dead, Is Working To Get Faster

Driver Olivier Pla was out testing the number 22 guinea pig all afternoon Tuesday, alternating between making short runs and hanging out while a fan blasted in the cabin.

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Illustration for article titled Nissans Bonkers Le Mans Prototype Isnt Dead, Is Working To Get Faster

That’s a good sign that the program is alive and well, if you ask me.

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The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a race with long straights that forces teams to minimize downforce and drag in favor of straight-line speed, making it somewhat of an oddball compared to the rest of the World Endurance Championship season.

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Thus, it only makes sense that a team continuing through the rest of the year’s races would be out testing alternate setups that favor shorter courses where cornering ability matters more.

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Motorsport.com previously reported that significant suspension and bodywork changes were on the way for this week’s test at Circuit of the Americas, but the changes to the body that were out for testing this week seemed to be more of an evolution than anything else.

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The most visually noticeable change was to the front of the car, with the addition of big canards and a revised front splitter for more front-wheel grip.

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Illustration for article titled Nissans Bonkers Le Mans Prototype Isnt Dead, Is Working To Get Faster
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Illustration for article titled Nissans Bonkers Le Mans Prototype Isnt Dead, Is Working To Get Faster
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Of course, a spare lower front end piece was sitting around just in case.

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Illustration for article titled Nissans Bonkers Le Mans Prototype Isnt Dead, Is Working To Get Faster
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The metal peg holding up the bottom of the canards was just taped in place for the test, but it certainly did the job. Tape for the win.

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Several test wires [edit: these look more like tubes, per autojim] were also attached to the front splitter to measure downforce.

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The other most noticeable change were the addition of some big, meaty cooling ducts for the brakes. Brake wear and cooling is one of the biggest problems from Le Mans that Nissan needed to solve, as the number 23 car went sailing off at Arnage during the race with smoking brakes.

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Illustration for article titled Nissans Bonkers Le Mans Prototype Isnt Dead, Is Working To Get Faster

Blowers helped keep the brakes cool when the car wasn’t in motion.

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The big aluminum scoops funneled air into a channel that blows directly onto the brake assembly itself.

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Stick-on thermometers were everywhere in hopes that this could finally rid the team of one of their biggest woes.

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One interesting bit of packaging is that the brake calipers are mounted at the bottom, making the center of gravity as low as possible. Every little bit counts.

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If it works, they’ll likely make these into a more permanent looking solution, but for the time being, the metal fangs are big, ridiculous and cool (in more ways than one).

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On the other hand, the team wasn’t testing any big changes to their other major problem from Le Mans: their unreliable hybrid system. We’ll have to wait and see if a solution to that issue pops up later.

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Fewer big visual changes were at the rear, although there was a gurney flap on the top edge of the rear of the body that they kept toying with.

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The flow-through design is clearly still alive and well, as you can still see daylight through the rear.

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Nissan kept their Tuesday afternoon runs short, opting to bring the car back in every so often to check data points. It’s getting to the grueling part of the summer here, with muggy temperatures floating around the 100-degree mark, making it just the right kind of weather for stress testing.

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Pla holding the fan on himself is a pretty apt description of exactly what our weather’s been like this week. No words. Bring fan. And water.

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Most of all, the team appears to have the right kind of motivation. A giant picture of an Audi R18 car hung over the garage this week. Audi fumbled Le Mans to Porsche this year, but they’ve been dominant enough that they’re a pretty good target to have on the wall.

Either way, it will be interesting to see which of the tested upgrades will make an appearance at the 6 Hours of Nürburgring next month.

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Contact the author at stef.schrader@jalopnik.com.

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DISCUSSION

The GT40 came out and immediately won it’s first race ever. To this day, at any given time there is a GT40 crossing a finish line in first somewhere in the world. In the time it took you to read this sentance, the GT40 won 6 races.

No one actually thought this heavily invested in, incredibly elaborate project was over because they didn’t come out and win one of the hardest races in racing on their first try did they? No one expected them to win, they didn’t, and now we get to see more sweet sweet engineering come out of it as they continue to try and win.