Car news

24 May 2014

Nissan will race a GT-R at Le Mans!

Confirmation that Nissan is to field the ‘GT-R LM Nismo’ in 2015 against Audi and co

Vijay Pattni
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Tellingly, at the big Nissan launch in East London, there was a huge car-sized crate sitting outside, intermittently giving off monster sounds. The allusion was to the GT-R's moniker, ‘Godzilla'.

Why the monster? Nissan has unleashed Godzilla on Le Mans. Today, we had confirmation that the company is building an LMP1 car set to take on Audi, Porsche and Toyota in 2015.

And it'll be named after Nissan's iconic supercar slayer: it's called the ‘GT-R LM Nismo'.

There was no actual car launch at the event (it's still being built) but the intent was clear. Nissan is gunning pretty heavily for the Big Dogs at La Sarthe - that's Audi, Toyota, and Porsche. No pressure, then...

Shoichi Mitayani, Nismo president, told TopGear.com that Nissan's re-entry into Le Mans had to be special: "We cannot just be a follower, we have to be innovative. This kind of investment is huge so we need to be different and competitive.

After all the millions they've invested into Le Mans over the years, there's this challenger that's coming along next year that's going to kick their ass.

"We have unfinished business at Le Mans and now we have our chance to target victory with the Nissan GT-R LM Nismo," he added.

Nissan's being coy with the meat of the GT-R LM's details - naturally - but Mitayani-san gave TG.com a little snippet. "It's too early to reveal the powertrain at this point, but we're calling it the ‘GT-R', so there will be some sort of commonality..." The GT-R, don't forget, packs a mighty big wallop in the form of a twin-turbo V6.

"I would say the new regulations stipulate that energy management is very important - you cannot use a huge amount of fuel to be fast - so in a sense, the engine and the powertrain will be a kind of hybrid system", Mitayani-san adds.

On a side note, Mitayani-san did reveal that though the road-going GT-R is getting on a bit, there's still lots of life left in it, notably in areas of refinement, but potentially in a hybrid setup. "This Le Mans attempt in LMP1 would be a kind of hybrid, and therefore this technology could be transferred into the GT-R road car."

Anyway, the LM Nismo driver line-up is still under consideration, but Mitayani-san told us they've got a strong pool to choose from. "The drivers will be a combination of our strong talent in Super GT in Japan, and some of the GT Academy graduates. We also need an experienced P1 driver, but how and who? We must really consider."

We push him on a certain GT Academy graduate who recently took one step closer to Formula One - friend of TG Jann Mardenborough. Mitayani-san smiles. "Potentially, yes."

Darren Cox, Nismo brand chief, echoed the sentiments, noting how he'd be ‘extremely disappointed' if a GT Academy graduate wasn't in the line-up.

As for the development of the car itself, we know a few of Nissan's big engine names have been corralled from around the company to work on the LM Nismo. "The engineering of this car will be a global effort," Darren told TG.com.

"For example, there's Shinichi-san, who has done the LMP2 engine (Nissan is powering more than a quarter of the 2014 Le Mans grid, don't forget) and the Super GT four-cylinder turbo, is involved, Kakimoto-san who was involved in our Le Mans programmes all the way back is on the steering committee, and the Chief Operating Officer of Nismo - he was the designer of the Daytona-winning engine - is also on board." That's quite a talent pool, you'll agree.

And though Mitayani-san was being a bit shy about Godzilla's prospects for next year - "I think realistically our proper attempt will be in 2016" - Nissan's chief planner and vice president Andy Palmer was slightly more bombastic.

"I'm not scared of anybody," he told TG.com. "Why should we be scared? There's nothing for us to be scared about. I'm sure most of the guys standing in the room today are probably extraordinarily cynical about our ability to compete with Audi and Porsche, but at the same time lets remember when we put GT-R on the Nürburgring we kicked the asses of most of those guys.

"They should be scared of us. After all the millions they've invested into Le Mans over the years, there's this challenger that's coming along next year that's going to kick their ass. I have absolutely nothing to lose."

Thems be fighting words, and we personally can't wait for 2015 to roll around, so we can see a proper Battle Royale. Just imagine: Audi vs Toyota vs Porsche vs Nissan.

Tags: le mans, gt r, nismo, nissan

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