Nissan GT-R LM Nismo - Experiment That Went Wrong

  • Nissan GT-R LM Nismo, Le Mans prototype

Nissan had some glorious moments in the past of the world’s endurance racing, including Le Mans 24h, with Nissan R390 GT1 car. After scoring the podium at 1998 Le Mans with R390 GT1 and using its successor R391 for one more season, more than fifteen years have passed since the Japanese manufacturer returned to the premium league of the world sports car racing.

In 2015, the Nissan GT-R LM Nismo was introduced, with a plan to compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship. But, nothing was going as planned. After a disappointing debut at 24 hours of Le Mans, Nissan didn’t return to the championship and the project was terminated at the end of the year.

Red Nissan GT-R LM Nismo, racing at Le Mans, sideview

Nissan GT-R LM Nismo – one of the Le Mans weirdos

Nissan had few unique projects, GT-R LM Nismo was one of them

After stopping its prototype programme in 2000, Nissan had some interesting projects such were the 2012 Nissan DeltaWing and 2014 Nissan ZEOD RC, the innovative race cars with concept and technology totally different from the others. The GT-R LM Nismo project was announced in May 2014. The car was presented for the first time in a Nissan commercial during Super Bowl XLIX on 1 February 2015.

The front-wheel-drive layout was different from all others

The Nissan GT-R LM Nismo was a completely different from all existing LMP1 prototypes, following an idea of chief designer Ben Bowlby. He placed the GT-R LM’s combustion engine in front of the cockpit, a layout that has not been used in prototypes more than ten years. But, it was just one piece of the puzzle, because Nissan decided to have a  front-wheel-powered car, unlike any other current prototype manufacturer. The 3.0L twin-turbo gasoline engine powered the front axle through a gearbox located in front of the engine.

new Nissan GT-R LM Nismo in motion

Nissan GT-R LM Nismo

Total power output of 1250 hp

Behind the engine and beneath the cockpit is a kinetic energy recovery system using two flywheels which gain energy from the use of the front brakes then discharges that energy back to the front wheels via a driveshaft running over the top of the combustion engine. The flywheels can also output power to a secondary driveshaft which is connected to a limited-slip differential at the rear of the car which feeds epicyclic gearboxes located in each rear wheel hub, allowing the GT-R to be all-wheel drive if necessary. The combustion engine output was approximately 500 hp while the flywheel system had an additional output of approximately 750 hp.

Front tyres were wider than rear tyres

Because of reverse weight balance compared to other cars, with GT-R LM being heavier in the front, tyres in the front were 360 mm wide, while the rear tyres were 230 mm wide. The cooling hole was located in the nose of the car, allowing the bodywork around the cockpit to be utilized as airflow tunnels. Because of that tunnels, the turbochargers were placed on top of the engine while the exhaust came out in front of the windshield.

Nissan GT-R LM Nismo, new 2015 Nismo LMP1 prototype perspective view

Nissan GT-R LM Nismo – totally different from other LMP1 prototypes

Nissan’s weirdo missed two opening races of the 2015 FIA WEC season

Such a car, with a totally unconventional and disproportional design and unique engine-power layout, was determined as one of the weirdest Le Mans cars by many. The race fans were pretty stunned when Nissan revealed the GT-R LM Nismo. The main question was how that concept could fight against Toyota’s V8 petrol hybrid system, Audi’s V6 diesel hybrid system and Porsche’s V6 petrol hybrid system, all three with a conventional rear-wheel drive.

Nissan intended to enter two GT-R LM’s at the start of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship but they are not ready for the season-opening race at Silverstone in April. Nissan also missed the second round at Spa-Francorchamps, starting its season at Circuit de la Sarthe in June.

Nissan's LMP1 prototype on track at Le Mans

Nissan’s LMP1 prototype at Le Mans

Nissan came to Le Mans with three GT-R LM Nismo cars

Nissan came to Le Mans with three cars (#21, #22 and #23). Former Le Mans winner Marc Gene was the first driver announced for the program, but later he became only the advisor and he wasn’t involved into GT-R LM’s debut as a driver. The #21 was driven by Tsugio Matsuda, Lucas Ordonez and Mark Shulzhitskiy, the #22 car was driven by Harry Tincknell, Alex Buncombe and Michael Krumm and the last #23 car was driven by Olivier Pla, Jann Mardenborough and Max Chilton.

Disappointing lap times at Circuit de la Sarthe

The results in the first practice and qualifying sessions were not only disappointing but embarrassing, as GT-R LM cars, classified in LMP1 class, had worse lap times than some LMP2 cars. At the end of the qualifying, the lap time of the best Nissan (#22) was twenty seconds slower than a pole-sitting time of the #18 Porsche 919 Hybrid and one second faster then a best-placed LMP2 car.

GT-R LM Nismo, 2015 Le Mans 24 hours, racing news, Facebook

The #22 car was the only GT-R LM Nismo which reached the finish line at 2015 Le Mans

One of three reached the finish line

The race started with #23 Nissan in the pits, repairing the clutch. The #21 entry retired after 115 laps when Tsugio Matsuda parked the car at Arnage and wasn’t able to continue. The #22 Nissan was next in the problems when it hit debris out on the racetrack and required a lengthy repair. Jann Mardenborough was in the #23 car when a smoke came out of a car, so he retired after 234 laps with a broken gearbox. The #22 car reached the finish line after 24 hours and 242 laps but it wasn’t classified because it didn’t complete enough laps.

The car underwent further testing after Le Mans at NOLA Motorsports Park before the program was officially canceled on 22 December. A second-generation GT-R LM Nismo had been designed for 2016, but was never completed before the project was shut down.

The team behind GT-R LM Nismo, 24 hours Le Mans

The team behind GT-R LM Nismo (literally)


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