Hybrid: Performance Unleashed.
Our LM P1 car turns the Le Mans rulebook on its head. Officially called the GT-R LM NISMO®, it's the only car with a front-mounted engine. It’s also the only one with frontwheel-drive. It's equipped with an Energy Recovery System (ERS), and engineered with revolutionary aerodynamics. In fact, everything about this race-car is front-forward, forever changing racing at Le Mans.
The minimum speed on-track at Le Mans is 50MPH, making 0-60MPH time irrelevant. Out here, power and performance are reckoned in 60-120MPH times. In the case of the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO®, the actual figure is a secret. What we can tell you is that it comes in at under 3 seconds, or about as fast as the acceleration of an F-14 jet-fighter on take-off.
Well, almost. In fact, the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO® will be running pedal to the floor, flat out 80% of the time. Even so, this makes the 24 Hours of Le Mans one gruelling ordeal. Racing wheel-to-wheel for 24 hours, hitting speeds of more than 200MPH is not only a feat of performance, it's a triumph of engineering, and to those who finish, a testament to endurance.
Fill 'er Up
At Le Mans, fuel is a custom brew of 20% ethanol and normaloctane gasoline. The thing is, it's not plentiful. Every drop is monitored - you can only use so much on any given lap. Go over your allotment on one lap, and you must use less on your next. If you don't, your team is penalized. This makes fuel not only the most precious, but the most closely guarded commodity on the track.
Dual Power Source
The GT-R LM NISMO®'s primary source of power is a specially designed, front-mounted, 3.0 L twin-turbo V6 engine. On its own, it's capable of developing some 550HP. But it isn't on its own. An Energy Recovery System, or ERS, allows energy and heat created by braking to be reclaimed and unleashed as engine power.
Brakes. The Other Gas Tank.
It isn't the most powerful cars, but the most efficient that win at Le Mans. To that end, the GT-R LM NISMO® mounts an Energy Recovery System, or ERS. When slowing through bends and around corners, this system captures braking energy that would otherwise be wasted and releases it as supplemental engine power. It's so effective, it can provide a massive power boost without burning so much as a single, additional drop of gasoline.
In previous Le Mans, energy recovery systems could only engage above 75MPH, and not through corners, this so as to avoid creating any unfair traction advantages over cars not similarly equipped. This year, that's all changed. The Nissan GT-R LM NISMO®'s ERS system can be deployed full-time anywhere on the track to maximize efficiency and power. In other words, 2015 may be well be the fastest Le Mans in history.
I Brake For Speed
Engineering studies estimate that the heat and resistance energy generated by braking is equivalent to about 2500HP. It can't all be harvested by the ERS, but what can be is redeployed to help run the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO®'s wheels, creating speed as if by magic, and completely for free.
Nissan®'s GT Academy-trained Le Mans Driver
From Gamer To Racer
For Nissan GT-R LM NISMO® driver Jann Mardenborough, training to become a race car driver began at home, and he didn't even know it. Playing Sony Playstation's auto-racing game, Gran Turismo, he beat a few thousand fellow GT players and qualified for Nissan's GT Academy. GT Academy puts gamers behind the wheel in a contest to create true race car drivers, making or breaking contenders through a gruelling regime of physical, as well as emotional trials. To prevail in GT Academy is impressive. To go on to the winner's circle in realworld motorsport is nothing short of mind-blowing.
Previous generation LM P1 cars severely limited visibility by positioning the driver low and back in the car. For 2015, the rules dictate that drivers assume a more upright position. They can now see over the fenders, and front visibility is almost twice that of previous generation LM P1 cars. To see what's coming up behind, side-mirrors mounted on the fenders cast a rearward look that's as good as a shoulder-check without the need to crane your neck.
Four Hours. Full-On.
To prevent excessive fatigue, promote focus, and maximize safety, LM P1 drivers are limited to four hours behind the wheel at a time. This is not a Sunday drive - racing flat out with G forces trying to push your head off your shoulders, the driver's heart rate (BPM) can match the speed (MPH) of the car. Le Mans rules enforce a two hour rest for the drivers to rehydrate, refuel (eat) and rest.
Checking gauges turning up the volume, cranking the A/C - that just doesn't happen here. The dashboard consists of a hidef display about the size of a smartphone screen, mounted in the middle of the steering wheel. Vital info like tire pressure, oil pressure, engine temperature, brake temperature and speed are instantly available at a glance. And there's no tachometer - just a set of lights. Green for go; yellow for go harder; red for whoa.
The LM P1 driver is contained in an armored cage, or "safety cell" composed entirely of carbon fiber and designed to withstand over 9000KG of stress and squeeze. It's surrounded by a 3mm thick layer of anti-penetrative Zylon® - one of the strongest fibers known to man. The result is a cockpit so safe, it's virtually bulletproof.
Smooth, Tank-Like Ride
Under 60MPH, the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO® rides like a tank. Its stiff suspension and flex-less chassis register any bump, jump or rut with jarring fidelity. Rounding out the experience is engine-noise - a discordant, tooth-shaking drone. Of course, it isn’t designed to be driven under 60MPH. At speed, the ride civilizes, the engine hums, uneven road surfaces smooth out, and that tank-like ride gives way to something more akin to a rocketship on rails.
As the rules dictate, the GT-R LM NISMO® is designed for two - driver and passenger. In reality, room inside the cockpit is so limited that the second seat is taken up by safety features, instruments and electronics vital to the car and driver. It's so cramped in fact, there isn't even spare room for so much as a cupholder.
Forget conventional, mechanical brakes. The Nissan GT-R LM NISMO® uses a brake-by-wire system. Pressure on the brake pedal sends a signal to a processor that actuates the brake callipers, and simultaneously activates the ERS. This saves weight while delivering more precise and effective braking. It's also a look ahead at technologies you can expect to see on next-gen Nissans®.
Built to hold fast
without holding back
Downforce (aka: Super Glue)
At speed, the GT-R LM NISMO® must produce a staggering 2000KG of vertical load to pin it to the track. In addition to the regulation tail-wing, its bodywork is aerodynamically optimized to create more than enough downforce for the car to actually drive on an upside down road.
.35 Coefficient Of Drag
.35 is the kind of drag coefficient you expect from a minivan, not a race car. But there's a reason for that: downforce. To create downforce, you always have to cope with the penalty of some drag. When it comes to keeping the GT-R LM NISMO® glued to the track at 220MPH, finding the balance between maximizing downforce and minimizing drag is key.
The Problem Of Speed
Speed is inefficient. That's because as speed increases, so does drag. And as drag increases, you need more power to overcome it. The solution is to strike a balance - a top speed that doesn't demand too much power to defeat drag. For the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO®, it's 220MPH. Any faster and fuel consumption becomes a problem. Any slower, and Porsche®, Audi® and Toyota® become a problem.
Air = Opportunity
From the outside in, the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO® is built like a giant vacuum system. Body surfaces are designed to channel air to create downforce. But the real opportunity lies underneath. The aerodynamics create a suction effect five times as powerful as the drag on the car.
Every LM P1 car has a central fin built into its bodywork. As cool as it looks, it isn't there for appearance-sake. It's designed to keep the car from becoming airborne in the event of a loss of control. Should a car spin or skid sideways, there's a tendency for it to lift off the road. By creating high-pressure on its windward side, the fin kills lift, keeping car and driver where they belong - down firmly on the track.
A New Spin On Efficiency
Even the tires have a role to play in the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO®'s aerodynamic ballet. Instead of standard, low-profile 18" tires, we're mounting custom, narrow-gauge 27.75" diameter Michelin-made tires on 16" rims. This high sidewall/narrow width configuration works to enhance the aerodynamics of the car, holding it down without holding it back. In a further break from convention, even the tire width is reversed on this car - the 14" wide fronts are actually wider than the 9" rears.
Le Mans regulations stipulate that LM P1 cars mount a rear spoiler or wing. Like the central fin, it looks really cool. Like the central fin, it serves a specific purpose - in this case, to create downforce and promote stability. Made entirely of carbon fiber, the wing creates high-pressure on its top-side. This exerts downward force on the rear of the car, planting it on the surface of the track beneath and improving handling.