Nissan’s GT-R LMP1: are they serious?!

Japanese manufacturer breaks the mold to launch radical new front-engined, front-wheel-drive car.

Has there ever been a car in more recent times with more myth, more fable attached to it than Nissan’s new LMP1, but with such good reason? Of course, any radical racing car in these homogeneous times will stand out from the crowd, but a front-engined car? In 2015? To take on Audi, Porsche and Toyota? Really?!

Since the rear-engined revolution of the late 1950s, placing the engine behind the driver has become convention. Of course, Panoz attempted to buck that with limited success in the late 1990s and early noughties, but… Really?!

It’s clear that Nissan and design ace Ben Bowlby have spotted a loophole in the regulations here. Why else would you do it, really?!

Back to the future

The GT-R’s V6 3-litre twin-turbo petrol engine sits in the front of the front-wheel-drive car, while the hybrid power is harvested from the front driveline to augment acceleration. Bowlby speaks of a “dynamite” burst of electrical energy to fire the car out of corners.

More staggering facts about this car: the front tyres are bigger than the rears. Now this really does buck convention, 14-inch fronts compared to nine-inch rears. This really is a ‘puller’ rather than a ‘pusher’!

Bowlby of course turned the DeltaWing into reality and proved it would go around corners, even though it didn’t reach – and still hasn’t – its full potential.

Once again, Bowlby has turned to his efficiency ethos, using less fuel and more hybrid power to take the fight to the big boys. And fair play to Nissan for allowing him this design freedom – plenty of others would shy away from such radical thinking, and play it safe.

Superbowl reveal a smart move

The reveal of the car in the Superbowl adverts, part of its #withdad campaign, was also a hugely different way of making a statement with a racing car. Let’s get this straight, racing programmes – even high-end prototypes – cost a lot less than a road car product launch. So attaching this as a narrative was a smart move, linking its marketing campaign with the upcoming racing programme.

It’s a huge gamble, with big rewards if it gets it right. But perhaps the main thing here is that someone has dared to be different, and if the worst thing that happens is that the gamble fails, then it was far better than to not try at all.

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About this article
Series WEC
Event Nissan GT-R LM launch
Article type Commentary
Tags nissan, nissan gt-r lm