► Latest shock Le Mans racer from Nissan
► Front-engined, FWD LMP1 racer!
► See it race at La Sarthe in June 2015
For some time, rumours have been circulating that Nissan was plotting a Le Mans car with a difference. There were whispers of it being front-engined, of the rear tyres being narrower than the fronts, of a bizarre driveshaft arrangement.
Now it’s been confirmed, in a mid-Super Bowl TV commercial of all things, and it’s just as weird and wonderful as we’d hoped. Due to compete in the top LMP1 class in the World Endurance Championship this year, including the Le Mans 24 hours, the car is called the Nissan GT-R LM Nismo, and it’s really quite something.
Not the most attractive of racing cars, is it?
Granted, it is a bit challenging to look at. But there’s some fascinating stuff going on under the skin.
Unusually for an LMP1 car, it is front-engined. Even more unusually, it’s front-wheel drive.
A front-wheel-drive Le Mans car?
That’s right. The engine (a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 petrol unit, mounted longitudinally behind the front axle) powers the front wheels. The rears are driven too, electrically. A flywheel kinetic energy recovery system harvests energy from the front axle and can send power to all four wheels, but is mostly biased toward the rears.
Interestingly, the front wheels are actually wider than the rears, with 14-inch wide tyres at the front and 9s at the back. The engine’s exhausts exit ahead of the cockpit, and as one clip in the slightly bizarre Superbowl ad shows, can belch flames with the best of them. Should be interesting for the drivers at night.
In total, Nissan says there's more than 1250bhp on tap from the engine and electric system combined.
When does it race for the first time?
On 12 April 2015 at Silverstone, the first round of the World Endurance Series. It’ll have its work cut out to take on the might of Toyota, Audi and Porsche.
Le Mans is where it’s at for technical innovation at the moment; the Toyota uses a V8 petrol engine, the Audi a V6 diesel and the Porsche a V4 petrol engine. No shortage of variety here.
The GT-R LM Nismo is something different again, however. Could this be a giant step forward for racing car design? Or one small dead end? It’s going to be fascinating to find out.
You can watch the first official footage of the GT-R LM in Nissan’s schmaltzy Super Bowl ad below: