Nissan Will Delay Its Return To FIA World Endurance Championship
It’s Friday, the day of the week companies like to unload all their bad news because fewer people are paying attention, or so goes that line of thinking. Today’s bad news comes courtesy of Nissan, which announced that it’s delaying its return to the World Endurance Championship, following the many technical issues that plagued the 2015 Nissan GT-R LM Nismo’s debut at the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The problems centered around the GT-R LM’s non-functioning energy recovery system, meaning the three cars entered were powered solely by their 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6s, putting them at a significant disadvantage compared to the Audi, Porsche and Toyota hybrid prototypes. The power deficit meant the Nissans were getting overtaken by LM P2 cars on the Mulsanne Straight, and because the ERS wasn’t functioning, the front brake pads also had to be replaced more frequently than planned. The ERS was to power the rear axle as well, but Nissan quietly shelved those plans in the lead-up to the race.
“We know people will be disappointed, but be assured that nobody is more disappointed than us,” said Nismo boss Shoichi Miyatani. “We are racers and we want to compete, but we also want to be competitive. That is why we have chosen to continue our test program and prepare the GT-R LM NISMO for the strong competition we face in the World Endurance Championship. When you innovate, you don’t give up at the first hurdle. We are committed to overcoming this challenge.”
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The growing pains didn’t come as much of a surprise. The GT-R LM Nismo is a complete rethink of what a top-flight race car should be; a radical front-engine, front-wheel-drive prototype in a field of proven mid-engine cars.
The GT-R LM Nismo is a complete rethink of what a top-flight race car should be; a radical front-engine, front-wheel-drive prototype in a field of proven mid-engine cars.
“We’ve said it before, but innovation hurts,” said former racer and Nismo marketing head Darren Cox. “We’ve built an LM P1 car that is very different to other racing cars as we continue to drive motorsport innovation. The beauty of this program is that people have got behind us and they are willing us to succeed. This has shown us once again that people want something different in motorsport, and that gives us increased motivation to make our LM P1 car competitive.”
But many have criticized the GT-R LM for being different for the sake of being different. Road & Track recently quoted an anonymous source within one of the German teams who was less than impressed with the Nissan’s program, suggesting it was nothing more than an attention-grabbing marketing stunt.
"And if it is just marketing that Nissan is doing, then there is something wrong with the sport,” the source suggested. “If [the car] isn’t showing promise in simulations and testing, it will never fly. Never. They may be embarrassed, but they knew from the beginning, after the Sebring test. Stay home. Even if it’s totally different, it still has to work."
Why it matters
Nissan hasn’t put a timeline on its return, instead saying that it will depend on the progress of the test program. The absence means Nissan will miss the last five rounds of the 2015 WEC season, in Germany, the United States, Japan, China and Bahrain. The self-imposed leave should give Nissan plenty of time to get everything in order, so look for a return to competition at the beginning of the 2016 season.
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