Nissan regroups, activates Plan B for radical LMP1 racer

The news that Nissan Motorsport will not make the start of the FIA World Endurance Championship season comes as no major surprise to many.

Those that have witnessed the initial phase of their shakedown, test and development program have seen at first hand the serious problems that have beset its revolutionary racecar.

The team has stated that it will miss the official FIA WEC test next week and also the first two rounds of the WEC due to failing mandatory FIA crash test. It will instead make its public debut at the Le Mans 24 Hours test day on June 1, two weeks before the 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours itself.

What’s gone wrong so far?

Sources close to the Nissan camp have confirmed to Motorsport.com that a variety of issues have beset testing so far. While several have been conquered, some are proving troublesome to overcome and progress.

It appears that the key areas of concern (bar the fact that aspects of it may need to be modified to pass the mandatory crash test) have been the Flybrid system and the rear gearbox.

The first of these problems was known from an early stage after what a Motorsport.com source termed ‘a significant lunching incident’ on the dyno. Internally, Nissan were hoping to see close to 2000bhp and 400kph on the Mulsanne straight at La Sarthe. Those ambitions are now firmly on the back burner.

The bold and unique Nissan GT-R LM NISMO rocked and wowed the motor sport world and beyond in January when its front engine design was unveiled. A massive PR boost was nurtured by the excited talk of its innovative construction and engineering. Since then, reality has set in and the car has had what can best be best described as a troubled birth.

There is no doubt that missing the official test next week and the first two rounds of the FIA WEC will be a big blow for the squad, the bigger picture is can they sort the fundamental issues out before the test day at Le Mans on June 1?

The front-wheel-drive conundrum

One of the other indications from the tests held so far is that the majority of the drivers are struggling to get their heads around front-wheel drive characteristics, especially the weight distribution of the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO.

Nissan took deserved credit for a genuine good news story when they announced to the world the exciting layout of their LMP1 car. As a project it needs time and patience. On the whole it does still have genuine good will from fans and media alike for its intrepid strategy.

But the fact remains that the GT-R LM NISMO has been built and will run (from a technical perspective anyway) on a fraction of the budget of their big hitting manufacturer counterparts at Audi, Porsche and Toyota. Depending on your opinion this could be either very brave or very foolhardy.

Respectability the first target

Ultimately, the boundaries are being pushed with this engaging and inspiring racing car. For all the clever and fresh marketing needs spun in to the public’s consciousness, Nissan still have to be at least competitive in their maiden season at this level.

Toyota and Porsche won a race in their first season in FIA WEC, and while it would be grossly unfair to expect anything similar from the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO in 2015, it at least must be in the same race as its contemporaries.

Nissan has been extraordinarily brave in their LMP1 program and it has justifiably been proclaimed from the rooftops as a great news story for racing. It faces a huge uphill task with this radical machine and let us hope that a difficult birth can be overcome on the test tracks of America before the flight over to Europe in two months’ time.

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Series WEC
Article type Analysis
Tags le mans, lmp1, nissan