The 24 Heures du Mans is just around the corner, with “Test Day” just four days away this weekend. All eyes will certainly be on the public track debut of the new Nissan LMP1. In true Nissan style, the Japanese constructor has embarked upon a major PR programme to build the buzz for its new prototype challenger. Expectations were great, but Nissan has suffered a number of setbacks since the start of the year.
The Nissan GT-R LM NISMO was unveiled with great fanfare in an unprecedented advert during the 2015 Superbowl. It is heralded as the start of a revolution in endurance racing, with a front-engined concept that could leave other LMP1 manufacturers in Nissan’s wake. Aside from its different appearance, the internals of the new Nissan LMP1 are also more than impressive: 1,250 hp, a V6 petrol engine powering the front axle and a hybrid system for the rear axle, giving the GT-R LM NISMO four-wheel drive. But during testing, Nissan suffered a number of setbacks and were forced to put back the debut of their LMP1 car to round three of the WEC at Le Mans. Now these problems appear to have been put aside and nothing more stands in the way of a premiere at La Sarthe.
The final version of the GT-R LM NISMO will be in the 2 MJ hybrid class, not the 8 MJ class as originally planned. But the GT-R LM NISMO’s hybrid classification is only cosmetic. Problems with the hybrid system occurred in testing and these have evidently not be completely resolved. To enable participation in this season’s WEC, Nissan have decided to reduce its share of hybrid power to the mandated minimum of 2 MJ. The hybrid unit is a mandated part of the car and must be fitted at all races, however Nissan evidently do not intend to use it. Instead, the GT-R LM NISMO will have to rely on its 600-hp, 3-litre V6 bi-turbo petrol engine and optimise its performance.
After a series of setbacks, this announcement will come as a major disappointment to Nissan fans. The GT-R LM NISMO was supposed to deliver upwards of 1,100 hp, but for this season at least Nissan’s potential will be limited to the 600 hp provided by the engine. The Japanese manufacturer must surely only be aiming to finish the famous twice-round-the-clock race at Le Mans.
The outcome of all this is that Nissan will also have to forgo its four-wheel drive system and only power the car through the front axle. Another problem is that, thanks to the absence of the hybrid unit, the 16″ wheels on the front of the car are now too small to generate sufficient braking power. The emergency solution is the fitting of 18″ wheels for Le Mans. Given all these problems, it’s surprising that Nissan are even attempting Le Mans in 2015. But the Japanese team appear to taking the changes in its stride and treating it as a learning curve. If even one of the three cars takes the chequered flag after 24 hours at Le Mans, it could be considered an excellent performance.