Nissan is bidding in the combination of a front-engine with a front-wheel drive.
Front-wheel drive is very common in road cars, but highly uncommon in pure-bred racing cars. The GT-R LM NISMO is front-wheel drive. It is also front-engined. This is a unique combination for a top-class Le Mans racer. Nissan believes this combination is the key to unlocking traction, stability and straight-line speed advantages over the rear-engined, rear-wheel drive cars competing in the LM P1 class.
“Fundamentally what the GT-R LM NISMO concept gives us is a greater percentage of the car’s mass (around 65%) over the internal combustion engine-driven (front) axle. Combined with the huge amounts of front-end downforce and much wider tyres fitted to the driven wheels we can generate more traction, and run at higher speeds before experiencing aquaplaning in extreme wet conditions.
The wheels always 'pull' the car which means as long as you are under acceleration, the rear end of the car will always be stable and cannot suddenly spin you around.
Having the weight, aero and tyre balance on the front also means you have a car that’s inherently very stable, not one that’s sitting on a knife-edge. Providing our drivers with a fast, stable car that’s more forgiving and helpful in those typical Le Mans moments when the unexpected happens was one of our strategic imperatives.”
What challenges does this radical car present the drivers, and how does it feel to drive? Let Michael Krumm, NISMO’s most experienced driver, and the man who has been involved in the GT-R LM NISMO development programme from the very first shakedown, put you in the driver’s seat.
“The driving position is very far back behind the engine, so it feels unusual the first time you sit in there (as you can see much more of the front end of the car than you usually would). But then you drive it and, initially to your surprise, you find it’s very sharp on turn-in and the traction is extremely good. We’re putting a lot of horsepower through the front wheels, so I expected it to have loads of wheelspin, but it pulls really well.
“The wheels always 'pull' the car which means as long as you are under acceleration, the rear end of the car will always be stable and cannot suddenly spin you around. That is particularly helpful in wet conditions. Also there are certain types of corners where this 'pulling' of the car can actually create more grip than a conventional rear wheel driven car.
“I think it’s going to be very interesting at Le Mans because we’re going to be quicker and slower than other cars in different places on the track. It’s going to be really exciting to see where we are better. If it’s wet or a little dangerous suddenly I think the front-wheel drive is going to show some really serious advantages.
“The aerodynamic concept and low-drag of the car means when you get onto the straights is just goes and goes and goes. We’re going to reach really good top speeds at Le Mans. Usually when you drive an LM prototype you accelerate quickly, but then you hit a bit of an aerodynamic brick wall, but the GT-R feels really slippery through the air. I love the V6 engine, too. It’s a really nice turbo engine that has terrific torque right through the rev range.”