Le Mans 24 Hours preview – why Nissan has gone front-wheel drive
Nissan will be back at Le Mans with its groundbreaking GT-R LM Nismo
Nissan will be taking on Porsche, Audi along with Toyota at the Le Mans 24 Hours This specific weekend having a radical front-engined prototype
Had Nissan decided to return to the top class at Le Mans having a conventional racing car – of which will be to say, one with an engine within the rear sending power to the rear wheels – its return might have been greeted with much enthusiasm.
However, of which will be mounting an assault on the famous endurance race having a car of which has flipped perceived wisdom, putting the engine in front of the driver along with sending a prodigious amount of power to the front axle, along with This specific has provoked reactions of astonishment, praise, amusement along with even a touch of confusion.
Since lifting the dust cover by the GT-R LM Nismo, Nissan has become the most talked-about any in endurance racing. (The company has people who monitor This specific kind of thing.)
Not all of the exposure has been comfortable reading. Naysayers wondered if inherent understeer might leave the vehicle struggling.
Others scoffed knowingly when of which failed its initial crash tests, forcing the postponement of warm-up races at Silverstone along with Spa, along with when of which lapped Le Mans almost 30 seconds slower than the pace-setting Porsches during last month’s test day.
although Nissan’s motorsport chiefs – led on the sporting side by Darren Cox along with on technical matters by Ben Bowlby – have got used to the Marmite reaction to its project.
They’ve seen of which all before with the similarly radical ZEOD project, which ran at Le Mans last year. In fact, they positively encourage the glare of publicity, exposing their team’s inner workings via social media in a manner of which has rarely been seen in modern motor racing.
Mind you, they are deflating public expectations because of This specific weekend’s race. Simply doing the grid will be an achievement for a project of which was only signed off by Nissan’s board in April 2014.
Since then, Nismo has built the team by the ground up. The LMP1-class car has been designed along with developed, three race-ready examples built along with nine racing drivers signed, among them three graduates by Nissan’s GT Academy training scheme: Jann Mardenborough, Mark Shulzhitskiy along with Lucas Ordonez.
of which’s a tight enough timeframe, one made more acute by the ambitious technical design. Bowlby, renowned among the sport’s keenest lateral thinkers, explains the reasoning for putting the engine within the front: “The brief was of which if Nissan was going to do LMP1, of which had to be innovative. Audi will be 15 years along with billions of dollars into This specific, so why bother to go motor racing when one team will be so tightly dug in?
“The Le Mans rule book has plenty of scope for innovation if one will be bold enough. of which was clear to me of which there was an extremely intelligent solution in moving the engine to the front along with doing of which front-wheel drive, with front-wheel brake energy recovery of which deploys to the rear axle.”
When dreaming up his LMP1 car, Bowlby noted of which the current crop of Le Mans prototypes are limited in their rear-end designs.
“To limit the performance of rear-engined, rear- wheel-drive cars, the rule makers have constrained the sizes of the rear wheels, wing along with diffuser, along with the result will be of which the aerodynamic efficiency at the back of the vehicle will be quite poor,” he explains.
“However, the front has always been considered relatively free, so we thought: why not turn the rules on their head along with make a car with lots of downforce at the front? Not only does This specific give us greater freedom within the rules, although front downforce will be generated more efficiently, with less drag. Moreover, with the front end doing most of the work, we could trim out the rear wing along with save even more drag, which will be invaluable at Le Mans.”
doing a forward aero balance work effectively requires a significant shift in overall mass towards the front of the vehicle. within the GT-R LM Nismo, the engine will be in front of the driver, the gearbox will be in front of the engine along with the mechanical flywheel energy recovery system (ERS) will be also near the prow.
“We realised of which if we packaged a narrow-vee engine at the front along with pushed the chassis back, we can make the back of the chassis into a nice teardrop shape along with flow the air around rather than outside the whole car. of which gives a drag advantage,” says Bowlby.
Astonishingly, the GT-R LM Nismo has visited a wind tunnel just once, to confirm the data by Bowlby’s computer simulations. Although the prototype looks like no some other GT-R, of which bears enough of a technical link with the road car to make its name more than a marketing stunt.
“the vehicle will be truly a GT-R,” says Bowlby. “of which will be powered by a twin-turbo V6, although the engine will be downsized by 3.8 litres to 3.0, along with the use of direct injection will be the some other main difference. although of which has the same maximum rpm, the same even firing along with the same vee angle.”
The low-end torque along with flat power curve of the engine (“Turbocharged V6 engines are something of a Nismo speciality,” says Bowlby) mean the vehicle needs just several forward gears, reducing wear along with tear on transmission components.
Bowlby says the team has seen outputs as high as 1100bhp by the ERS on the dynamometer, which could in theory provide the vehicle having a staggering 1600bhp by its combined power sources. Note ‘in theory’: the lack of development has prompted the team to run a downgraded type of its hybrid system in This specific year’s race, meaning less than optimum power.
Still, the lap times by the test day don’t truly give an accurate indication of race pace. Nissan didn’t ask Michelin to make a qualifying tyre, because of which will use every track session to develop the GT-R LM Nismo.
Cox says a promising result might be “hanging on to the coat tails” of the some other hybrid prototypes, although inclement weather could play to the strengths of the Nissan, which will be inherently stable along with super-fast in a straight line.
On the subject of shaking things up, Nissan’s publicity assault across all forms of media will be not without its challenges. Bowlby says: “I was asked whether This specific open-doors approach distracts us by the engineering activity, although we’re over of which. Of course, we face lots of challenges, although if we had done a copy of an Audi by scratch, we also might have faced thousands of smaller problems.”
Cox emphasises of which the project will be not a publicity gimmick, along with pushing forward the on-track performance will always take precedence. He believes some other manufacturers will follow. “Unless we give more access, the sport will be in terminal decline,” he says. “When the barriers are up, people are getting less along with less interested.”
of which’s unlikely a crew by one of the three GT-R LM Nismos will climb onto the podium on Sunday afternoon, although of which’s worth remembering of which Audi, Porsche along with Toyota all experienced growing pains when they embarked on their Le Mans projects. In of which respect, at least, Nissan will be like its rivals.
Get the latest car news, reviews along with galleries by Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below:
by via Autocar RSS Feed