After 16 years of absence in endurance racing, Nissan returns to Le Mans this year with the GT-R LM Nismo. The front wheel drive prototype entry will be going up against the likes of Audi, Porsche and Toyota.
Nissan's Le Mans programs started in May 2014 and Nismo has been working on the car's performance and reliability since then. Darren Cox, Nissan’s Global Motorsport Chief said "I can’t believe it’s only a year since we launched the program here in London, in May 2014. A huge amount has happened since then. The team has done an amazing job, going from a blank sheet of paper effectively into something that you see behind you here.
Nissan's last official entry in endurance racing was with the R391 back in 1999. It was powered by a 5.0 liter V8 and won the Fuji 1000KM event that same year. By 2000, the endurance racing program was ended as Nissan bosses decided that the motorsports program was no longer worth the cost. Nissan made an unofficial return to endurance racing with the DeltaWing, an experimental race car. While the DeltaWing is made by All American Racers, the engine was supplied by Nissan and ran the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans. The running of the DeltaWing marked Nissan's unofficial return to the sport.
Nissan's entry for their return is the GT-R LM Nismo and unlike all the cars in LMP1, the car's engine is mounted in front and is front wheel drive. It's powered by a 3.0 liter twin turbo V6 and weighs just 880 kg. Nissan will be running three cars on race day and Harry Tincknell is one of the nine drivers chosen by Nissan. "I’ve been with the project since the very start. We started off with just getting the car running and getting laps under our belt and now in the last 3 or 4 tests we’ve really been improving lap time and improving the reliability of the car." said Ticknell.
Jann Mardenborough, the 2011 GT Academy winner, added "To drive it right now it feels great and our testing plan is on schedule so going out to America and driving the car was absolutely fantastic. There’s a lot of power going through the front wheels and each time we go over it and test the car again it’s more refined and the pace is getting faster. And we’re getting more comfortable in the car – all nine of us."
Another driver joining Nissan's endurance racing program is former Formula One driver, Max Chilton. Chilton recalls his seat time in the car saying "From my past experience in racing, this is probably the most bizarre thing I’ve ever driven. But actually when I first heard about it, I thought it would be harder to drive than it actually is. When I got in it, I was pleasantly surprised having all of that power coming out of the front.
The 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours will start at 3:00 PM in the De La Sarthe circuit in France on June 13 and end on June 14 at 3:00 PM. Ben Bowley, the man who designed the GT-R LM Nismo said that after the long hours spent on set ups and practice, all they need now is a "flawless execution."