By   June 5, 2015



This year the 24 Hours of Le Mans will become a bit more crowded in the top LMP1 class. Next week the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO will take a very different design to compete against Audi, Porsche and Toyota.

It will be very interesting to see how the front-engined front-wheel drive car is able to do against mid-engined hybrids with all-wheel drive. The Japanese automaker has a good history in the race, but they would like to get to the top. Audi and Porsche will likely be the toughest challenges, but in a 24 hour endurance race you never know what might happen.

To find out more about Nissan at Le Mans as well as more from the drivers of the GT-R LM NISMO click past the jump (or scroll down if you came directly to the full article).

Nissan will field three GT-R LM NISMOs with the #21 car wearing the livery that celebrates the R90CK that managed pole position at Le Mans 25 years ago. That car would finish 5th overall. At the wheel of the #21 car will be current Super GT Champion Tsugio Matsuda, the first GT Academy winner, and now Super GT500 racer Lucas Ordonez, and the first winner of GT Academy Russia, Mark Shulzhitskiy.

“It’s great to see Nissan still pushing in a different direction to the other teams with the GT-R LM NISMO,” said Ordonez. “It’s good for the fans and good for the sport. Performance-wise the car is really strong on engine power and top speed. It’s different to drive, which makes you work hard on understanding the car and adapting what you know to suit it, but all of us are working together to get the best from the car and ourselves.”

Former Formula 1 star Max Chilton, GT Academy winner and GP3 racer Jann Mardenborough and sportscar supremo Olivier Pla will race the #23 Nissan.

“It’s great to be part of a works team that has come to Le Mans with such a radical concept design,” said Chilton. “I think people are giving us credit for trying it, and I think with time we can show that people maybe haven’t always been doing Le Mans the right way. The torque in the GT-R LM NISMO is outstanding – more than any racing car I’ve driven. I don’t think you have to drive it as differently from rear-wheel drive as I expected, but you have to think about your driving in more detail.”

In the #22 Nissan will be the longest-standing NISMO racer of them all, Michael Krumm, along with LM P2 Le Mans winner Harry Tincknell and Nissan GT ace Alex Buncombe.

“I’ve raced for Nissan NISMO for 16 years now; I was part of the team in the top class at Le Mans in 1998 and 1999, and they were very enjoyable early years,” said Krumm. “To now have the opportunity to come back and complete our unfinished business (we retired in 1999) means a lot. To help develop a new car and be part of the race squad is a big honor for me. That said, I thought the team was crazy until I saw the simulations and had it all explained to me by Ben (Bowlby) and Ricardo (Divila). From that moment I was extremely excited about the concept.

The most impressive thing to me was how good the traction was in a straight line and aerodynamics. The car has very low drag, so it just goes and goes and goes. I love the engine. It is a really nice turbo engine with amazing torque. We’re going to be quicker and slower than other cars at different parts of the circuit, so it’s going to be interesting. I think the front-wheel drive will show some serious advantages if it is wet at Le Mans.”

Nissan has had some success at the famed 24 hour race, but not as much as manufactures like Porsche or more recently, Audi. The above infographic gives a history of their endurance racing highlights. It includes a bit about how they have been competitive in races and have managed class victories. Click here to see a larger version of the image.

While the Japanese car maker hasn’t been able to win the entire thing, engines made by Nissan have been behind many dominate LMP2 cars. Cars powered by their engines have had class wins three out of the last four years. In fact fourteen out of 19 machines in LMP2 are powered by Nissan. When you add in the GT-R LM NISMO to the mix, thirty percent of the cars at this year’s Le Mans will be powered by an engine made by the brand.

While a Nissan powered car has a very good chance of winning the LMP2 class, LMP1 is a much tougher job. The Porsche 919 Hybrid and Audi R8 e-tron quattro look to be the top contenders, but you never know what could happen in a long race. The GT-R LM NISMO’s unconventional design may be just crazy enough to work or it could fail miserably.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans will begin on June13th and we will be following all of the action right here.