The first time we heard about the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO, we were excited yet confused. How would Nissan take the GT-R and make it into an LMP, since it is front-engine, AWD? The standard layout for the LMP is mid-engine, RWD (or sometimes AWD). If this was a marketing stunt, how could it be relatable to the street car?
When you look at the GT-R LM NISMO, it doesn’t make sense. It’s a front-engine, front wheel drive car. Of course, like most modern race cars, it has a Kinetic Energy Recovery System to recover energy from slowing the car down. But really? A FWD race car? Like you, we went through this period of confusion, and needed to know more so it made sense.
The FIA rules are very restrictive for aerodynamic elements in the rear, which means that most of the teams are running essentially the same setup. The rule book is much more allowing for aerodynamic features in the front of the car. What Nissan’s engineers discovered was that if they could have the Center of Pressure (downforce) on the same axis as the Center of Gravity, they would have a neutral-handling car. Being that the CoG and CoP are so far forward, the GT-R LM needed to have wider tires up front for more grip, and allowed for slimmer tires in the rear. Having the engine in the front meant that they could have more room for airflow through to the back of the car. In mid-engine cars, that passage is blocked by the engine, which requires airflow to exit out the side, making the front profile of the car much bigger with respect to airflow.
Another benefit of having a front-biased car means the weight-shift under braking could put as much as 90% of the weight of the car over the front axle, offering a real advantage in terms of energy recovery potential. Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems have become increasingly popular in recent years, due to FIA regulations. FIA doesn’t require a certain displacement for the engine of hybrid cars, but it does restrict fuel flow rate. The GT-R LM is in the 8 megajoule class of hybrid cars, which is the most restrictive in terms of fuel flow to the internal combustion engine, but allows for the deployment of up to 8 MJ per lap. NISMO has not released power figures, but it’s estimated the output of the TT V6 and the ERS are in the neighborhood of 1250 to 1500 HP.
Nissan faces 2 major challenges with this GT-R LM NISMO. The first will be the fact that the front tires will be doing most of the work. It is true that this car is technically FWD, but under hard acceleration, a percentage of power will be distributed to the rear. The second and most important challenge they face is ensuring the car is under the maximum weight limit of 880 kgs (1940 lbs).
We live in a very exciting time for endurance racing. Audi has nearly dominated for the last 14 years, and now Porsche, Toyota, and Nissan are taking the fight to them, with Nissan doing it in an innovative and very unconventional way. The real question is, Is different better?
Included below are a couple of videos to give you a sense of just how much potential this Nissan GT-R LM NISMO has. Let us know if you think they have what it takes, and who you would like to see win this year’s 24 Hours of LeMans.