After announcing their intentions to compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2015, Nissan unveiled their new LMP1 car on Sunday night in a 90-second commercial during Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz.
The car logged laps at Circuit of the Americas, an FIA Grade 1 facility near Austin, Texas, during the winter break leading up to the start of another busy racing season. Several lo-res spy photos were leaked during testing in December, and a conceptual rendering appeared on Jalopnik. The incessant chatter and rumor-mongering was murky at the very best.
Now, the wait is finally over.
"Innovation That Excites" – Nissan Isn't Kidding Around
The car, dubbed the GT-R LM NISMO, is front-engined and front-wheel-drive, and will make the foray into the Automobile Club de l'Ouest's (ACO) prestigious LMP1 class. It features a 3.0-liter, 60-degree V6, direct injection twin turbo petrol engine, which is capable of launching Nissan's new Le Mans challenger to over 200 MPH.
In addition to the engine, the GT-R LM NISMO also boasts a kinetic energy recovery system, or ERS.
"The car is a mass, traveling at velocity, and as we slow it down for the upcoming corner, we harvest that kinetic energy," commented Nissan LMP1 team principal and technical director Ben Bowlby. “We can then deploy that stored energy to accelerate the car out of the corner, and because the energy recovery system can release the stored energy very quickly, it makes it very powerful."
While the idea of an ERS system is not new to the LMP1 class, with Audi, Porsche, and Toyota designing similar units for their cars, the way the esteemed Japanese manufacturer interpeted ACO's sporting regulations is. The GT-R LM NISMO is the first front-engined Le Mans Prototype since the Panoz LMP07; the last time a front-engined car won at Le Mans was in 1962. Additionally, the engine will produce the maximum power for the allotted fuel flow limit.
"The fuel flow limit is one of the new regulations at Le Mans – we’re not limited by the engine capacity or the boost pressure or the RPM of the engine – we’re limited by how many grams of fuel per second we can burn," continued Bowlby. "So the more efficient you make the engine, the more power you have, because you are still burning the same amount of fuel whether you are efficient or inefficient, so if you can make a very efficient engine you get a lot of power.
"We are burning a smaller amount of fuel, around 30 percent less than was used by a petrol engine at Le Mans in 2013, for example."
Furthermore, the car will produce a formidable 1,250 horsepower. These astounding figures are down to the 8-megajoule ERS, which allows for amazing fuel effiency. The downside is the weight.
“There are, however, some very big challenges, one of which is that you have to get the car down to the minimum weight because every 10-12 kilograms is about half a second a lap around Le Mans, so if you have more weight in the car, that slows you down pretty significantly," said Bowlby.
"The challenge is to package a big, powerful energy recovery system without going over the weight limit and that is very hard to do. We’re going to be really challenged to make our weight target of 880 kilograms 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.”
Competing Against The Best – What's Ahead In 2015
The FIA WEC is a head-to-head competition between the best of the best in sports car racing. Consisting of eight races around the world, the series will see Nissan race against factory teams like Audi, Porsche, and Toyota in the premier class, LMP1.
Seasoned sports car driver Marc Gené was also announced on Sunday night as the program's first official driver. The team will field two GT-R LM NISMOs for a full season's worth of competition in the FIA WEC and will add a third car to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, leaving a total of eight seats (three per car) up for grabs for the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic. Jann Mardenborough and Michael Krumm, both of whom attended the testing in Texas, have been tipped as potential drivers for the additional seats.
The fourth running of the FIA WEC will kick off at Silverstone Circuit in the United Kingdom on April 12 and will then travel to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, Le Mans in France, and the Nürburgring in Germany to finish off the European tour. The series will go global with rounds five through eight being held in the United States, Japan, China, and Bahrain, with the Middle Eastern season finale being held on November 21.