We've finally seen it in Nissan's Super Bowl ad, and now Nissan finally released detailed shots of its World Endurance Championship LMP1 competitor along with more video of it in motion. This is the Nissan GT-R LM Nismo, the radically different car which Nissan hopes will win Le Mans.
With the ad's official release means that the embargo for those who got an inside look at the car early on has dropped as well. RACER has perhaps the most extensive write-up yet, complete with photos of the car in development and detailed views underneath all the curvy bodywork.
"The brief was, don't build me an Audi, or a P1 copy," explained NISMO President Darren Cox to RACER. I think it's safe to say "mission accomplished" on that one.
Not only is the Nissan LMP1 packaged differently than any Le Mans prototype we've seen before, but it powers completely different wheels. It's front-wheel-drive. You know, the layout that track snobs joke about as being "fail-wheel-drive." LMP1 program Team Principal Ben Bowlby explains how it works in a Nissan Q&A:
The Nissan GT-R LM NISMO is in automotive-speak a front-engined, front-wheel-drive car. The internal combustion engine drives the front wheels, and the energy recovery system harvests energy from the front wheels. We've used the relatively low-powered internal combustion engine to drive the front wheels, and then we add power from the ERS to augment acceleration.
A relatively conventional twin-turbo, 3.0-liter V6 gasoline engine is the engine that supplies the front wheels with power, but a kinetic energy recovery system (ERS) rounds out the car's power supply to bring the horsepower figure up to 1,250.
One of the biggest challenges in the Nissan LMP1's design is the 8-megajoule ERS required to get that much power out of the V6/ERS combo. The ERS design allows them to carry less fuel onboard for the relatively fuel-efficient V6 turbo, but unfortunately, it's also very heavy.
"We're going to be really challenged to make our weight target of 880 kilos for 2015 when half of the weight of the car is the powertrain – engine, ERS and the driveline – so that's a very big challenge," explains Ben Bowlby.
Horsepower from the ERS can go to the front or the rear wheels, depending on where the car needs the additional power. Marshall Pruett of RACER explains:
Picture the loooooong driveshaft extending from the front of the car to the back of the car, terminating at the rear axle line. It connects to a differential housing that scales upward – high enough for driveshafts to reach across and over the through-flow aero tunnels. Those driveshafts connect to individual gearboxes that also sit in tall housings. With the high differential housing connected to the high outrigger gearboxes via driveshafts, the rear wheels are turned by short driveshafts from the base of the gearboxes.
If the meaty front tires are already overwhelmed with the power produced by the internal combustion engine and the ERS combined, the excess power will be directed to the rears.
Those front tires are indeed meaty: 14 inch as opposed to the 9-inch tires in the back. With weight being such a concern, packaging it effectively was a big deal. The front weight bias and primarily front-wheel-drive drivetrain necessitated Nissan's different approach to its layout.
"This is due to the way that mass is distributed in the car," Bowlby explains. "We have moved the weight bias forwards to give us traction for the front-engined, front-wheel drive."
The aero center of pressure for the front-wheel-drive racer was moved forward to match the weight distribution, also necessitating the move to a wider front tire.
The GT-R LM Nismo's steering wheel is almost as complex as many modern Formula One cars', yet F1 isn't the same hotbed of crazy technology that LMP1 is.
"In 2014 three different manufacturers using three different powertrain combinations won races," commented Nissan Global Head of Marketing and Brand Strategy Roel de Vries in a press release about the car. Nissan will be adding a fourth powertrain to the mix, and it's by far the most unique of the bunch.
Will it be competitive, though? Marc Gene has been named as the first driver for the program, so that's a good start. We don't know who his teammates will be yet, Gene won Le Mans back in 2009 and was tapped for his experience in endurance racing.
Enough talk. On to the photos.
Another video of the car that features shots of it testing (complete with a shot of a completely naked car) refers to Nissan's entry into Le Mans as "coming home:"
Their highest result at Le Mans was third place, so they're dumping all they can into this unique car to finally take the win, and the world of endurance racing just got a whole lot more exciting as a result.
We can't wait for the World Endurance Championship season to start now.
Photo credits: Nissan