So far, Nissan has yet to clinch ultimate victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but it’s not for lack of trying. The Japanese automaker made its initial debut at the prestigious racing event in 1986, with best results achieved in 1998 with a third-place podium from the #32 R390 GT1 car driven by Kazuyoshi Hoshino, Aguri Suzuki, and Masahiko Kageyama. A year later, Nissan opted to simply provide engines rather than field full prototype racers. 

Now, after a 16-year departure from the top echelon of endurance racing, Nissan is back with one of the most unusual cars to ever take the grid. At first glance, the GT-R LM NISMO looks totally unlike its main rivals, and for good reason – while the other marques all feature mid-mounted engines and RWD, the GT-R LM places its engine ahead of the cockpit and uses FWD.

This setup is the brainchild of Team Principal and Technical Director Ben Bowlby, also known for creating the All American Racers DeltaWing and the ZEOD RC. Nissan calls it the “ultimate GT-R," but with such a radical reinterpretation of the rulebook, will it have a fighting chance against the current crop of proven machinery from Audi, Porsche, and Toyota?

Updated 10/01/2015: Back in June the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO made its race debut at Le Mans. However, the car featured some technical difficulties and it had to race without its hybrid system engaged. Now, Nissan announced that the team has been working hard to address these technical issues and that the GT-R LM NISMO is ready to make its race return at the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2016.

Click past the jump to read more about the 2015 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO.

  • 2015 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO
  • Year:
    2015
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V6
  • Transmission:
    5-speed + reverse sequential
  • Displacement:
    3.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    3 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    200 mph (Est.)
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

2015 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO High Resolution Exterior
- image 614789

Given the GT-R LM’s designation as a radical departure from the traditional prototype layout seen at Le Mans, it’s no surprise that the body is equally as distinctive. The majority of traction duties on this car are the responsibility of the front tires, which means Nissan shaped the body to help maximize front-end grip.

With the complicated mechanical bits situated in the nose, the carbon-composite bodywork extends forward from the cockpit in an almost cartoonish fashion, but putting all that weight ahead of the driver should improve overall front-end balance. The GT-R LM is also a remarkably low car, at just 40.55 inches in height.

Aerodynamically, this racer features several novel enhancements. For example, air that is directed below the front splitter is routed into ducting that passes through the middle of the car, exiting above the diffuser in the rear. This is accomplished by way of a middle section and back end free from the complications of a mid-engine, RWD layout, thus providing huge downforce without the typical amount of drag. It’s the kind of design feature unique to the front-engine, FWD layout that should have Nissan’s competitors more than a little worried.

Exterior Dimensions

Length 4,645 MM (182.87 Inches)
Width 1,900 MM (74.80 Inches)
Height 1,030 MM (40.55 Inches)
Minimum weight 880 KG (1,940 LBS)
Full tank capacity 68 Liters (17.96gallon)

Interior

2015 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO Interior
- image 614804

The driver is ensconced behind a protective polycarbonate windscreen, where all the usual racer equipment is present: a bucket seat, racing harness, and instrumentation. Although unconfirmed, there is also almost definitely a drinking water system to keep the driver hydrated during extended stints.

The steering wheel is a rectangular slab of carbon fiber festooned with nearly 15 different buttons, as well as shift lights, gear paddles, and a digital readout, not to mention the obligatory “GT-R” logo. No word yet on the installation of a telescope to help identify the edge of that absurdly long front end.

Drivetrain

2015 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO High Resolution Exterior
- image 614790

It makes a lot of sense that hybrid- powered vehicles dominate in endurance racing, and it would appear as though Nissan is hoping to underline that fact with its own gasoline-electric combo. Driving those behemoth front tires is a 3.0-liter, twin-turbo, 60-degree Nissan VRX 30A NISMO V-6 engine, which runs through a five-speed sequential gearbox and a hydraulic limited-slip differential. A Tilton four-plate clutch hooks it all up.

On gasoline power alone, this combination is good for 550 horsepower. However, as part of the eight-mega-joule-per-lap LMP1-H class, there’s also an energy reclamation system that can boost that potential an additional 700 horsepower, rendering a total figure of 1,250. That’s a number that Nissan claims makes the GT-R LM one of the most powerful vehicles on the grid at Le Mans. This technology is also seeing additional use in cars that you and I can drive, with the brand’s Chief Creative Officer Shiro Nakamura recently confirming that the next-generation GT-R road car will be powered by a hybrid drivetrain.

While the majority of this power is routed to the front wheels, RACER is reporting that there is space in the carbon-fiber tub for a driveshaft that would send some of the muscle to the back, although it remains unclear how often this will be used in competition, if at all.

Drivetrain Specifications

Configuration Front engine. Front-wheel-drive.
Engine Nissan VRX 30A NISMO: 3.0 litre, 60 degree V-6, direct injection gasoline twin-turbo
Transmission Five-speed plus reverse sequential gearbox with pneumatic paddle shift system. Epicyclic final drive reduction with hydraulic limited-slip differential. Tilton four-plate carbon-ceramic clutch assembly.

Suspension And Brakes

2015 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO High Resolution Exterior
- image 614794

Details are a bit hazy when it comes to how Nissan manages to prompt a FWD prototype with well over 1,000 horsepower to go around a corner without immediately understeering into a tire wall. However, there are a few threads we can trace for some kind of rough idea.

For starters, the front tires are wider than the rears by a whole five inches, measuring 14 inches and 9 inches, respectively. With Michelin tapped for creating a specialized compound specifically designed for the GT-R LM application, I can’t help but wonder if there is a difference in the rubber between the front and rear beyond just size.

Penske dampers are used in all four corners, with each unit providing four-way adjustability. Rear stiffness is also adjustable via a hydraulic anti-roll bar system. The brakes use six-piston calipers up front and four-piston calipers in the rear, with NISMO Brake-by-Wire ERS incorporated to top off the batteries. These hybrid components are housed in a self-contained module ahead of and beneath the driver’s feet.

You can bet that Nissan’s engineers are working overtime to tweak these systems for the upcoming Le Mans season. But even with the full weight of the Japanese automaker’s tuning know-how thrown behind development, it remains to be seen whether or not such a platform can be made competitive.

Chassis FIA Homologated weight: 880 kg (1940.06 lbs).
Right-hand driving position
68 liter- (17.96 gallon) capacity FT3 fuel tank featuring electric lift and feed pumps. ERS housed ahead of and beneath driver’s feet in a self-contained module.
Bodywork Carbon-composite body panels. Polycarbonate windscreen with hard coating CFD and full-scale, wind-tunnel-developed, ultra-high-efficiency bodywork geometry, adjustable rear wing.
Suspension Penske dampers with four-way adjustments front and rear, hydraulic rear anti-roll bar system
Brakes Six-piston front and Four-piston rear calipers. NISMO Brake-by-Wire active brake ERS blending. Driver-adjustable brake bias.

Competition

Audi R18 e-tron quattro

2014 Audi R18 e-tron quattro Le Mans High Resolution Exterior
- image 552240

Note: 2014 car pictured.
While it’s enjoyed tremendous success in the past, Audi faltered slightly last year, giving up both the driver’s and manufacturer’s championship to Toyota. However, the Germans still managed to snatch the podium for the 13th time at the 24 Hour race in France — a testament to the tenacity of the team backed by Ingolstadt.

This year, the four-ring marque will enter a renewed version of its R18 e-tron quattro in hopes of reclaiming its complete dominance from years past. Understandably, Audi has remained tight-lipped on details for the 2015 season, but speculation indicates a revised hybrid system for its diesel-fueled V-6 powerplant.

Toyota Racing TS040 Hyrbid

2014 Toyota Racing TS040 Hybrid High Resolution Exterior
- image 547119

Note: 2014 car pictured.
With a car capable of demonstrating both unmatched speed and reliability, Toyota was able to take the overall 2014 season win from Audi, and I expect renewed vigor for the battle in France this June at the 24 Hours. If last year was any indication, Toyota is more than fit to win that race as well. The team’s TS040 started on pole, even leading with a single-lap advantage at one point. However, electrical issues eventually forced a retirement, ending Toyota’s chance at becoming the first Japanese manufacturer to win the event since Mazda in 1991.

As Nissan represents a second entry from the land of the rising sun, the odds are slowly ebbing away from the Germans. Expect epic battles all season long between these three competitors.

Conclusion

2015 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO High Resolution Exterior
- image 614799

Nissan’s innovative GT-R LM NISMO prototype racer will officially hit the track this April for the first round of the FIA World Endurance Championship at Silverstone. All eyes will be on the pace set by this new platform, as it promises to either upend the world of sports-car racing or confirm the dominance of the mid-engine, RWD layout.

Either way, it will be the new design that is on trial, not the arms and legs behind the wheel. Nissan has employed the skillset of Spanish driver Marc Gené to pilot the GT-R LM. His extensive experience at Le Mans includes a win with Peugeot in 2009. With a talent like that at the helm, you can bet this race car will shed every tenth available.

Of course, the grand prize is the 24 Hours at the Circuit de la Sarthe. That is where the true test of man and machine will take place, a perfect illustration of the old maxim “to finish first, you must first finish.” Will this wild new car have what it takes to compete at the highest level of endurance racing in the world?

  • Leave it
    • Has a lot to prove
    • FWD? Really?!
    • Stout competition

Updated History

Updated 02/13/2015: Nissan Nismo brought the new GT-R LM Nismo at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show where, as no surprise, it made a very nice impression. We’ve added a set of images taken at the show, plus two new video presenting Nissan’s press conference in Chicago. Enjoy!

Press Release

Nissan today declared itself ready to take on the world’s best sports car manufacturers after revealing a glimpse of its Le Mans challenger – the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO – during the commercial break for Super Bowl XLIX.

2015 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO High Resolution Exterior
- image 614796

Last year’s Super Bowl was the most watched television program in U.S. television history with over 110 million viewers. The 2015 game was therefore the perfect opportunity for Nissan’s "With Dad" commercial (view at www.withdad.com) to air for the first time, revealing the much-anticipated Nissan GT-R LM NISMO, the car that will take on the best in the world in the race to glory at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

In a bold move, the Japanese manufacturer has interpreted the sport’s technical regulations in an innovative way, producing a front-engined, front wheel drive car that is powered by a V6 3.0-liter twin turbo gasoline engine and a kinetic energy recovery system.

"It gave us great pride to reveal the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO during the Super Bowl," said Roel de Vries, global head of Marketing and Brand Strategy at Nissan. "The combination of the Super Bowl and the Le Mans 24 Hours – two of the most watched sporting events in the world – presented us with a unique opportunity to showcase our most ambitious motorsport program in recent times. The GT-R is our flagship road car. This, the ultimate GT-R, continues a sporting bloodline that goes back three decades with NISMO, the motorsport and performance arm of Nissan. Le Mans drives innovation, so success on the track will lead to greater innovation in our road car range. We are the new kids at Le Mans. Our opponents are the best in the world, but we are ready."

2015 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO High Resolution Exterior
- image 614797

The new car will contest the LM P1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the highest category in world sports car racing. Starting at Silverstone, UK on April 12, the series travels around the world to Spa in Belgium, onto the Le Mans 24 Hours and Germany’s Nürburgring, before going global with races in the U.S., Japan, China and the Middle East.

The FIA World Endurance Championship is the ultimate proving ground for automotive companies as technological gains on the track can carry through to road cars. Racing car engineers are facing the same challenges as road car engineers as the spotlight falls on energy efficiency. With more technical freedom than Formula 1, the LM P1 engineers have ample opportunity to innovate.

"This is innovation that excites," said Shoichi Miyatani, president of NISMO. "Sustainability is at the top of our agenda, and the technical regulations for Le Mans give us the freedom to pursue new ideas in this area. Our record at Le Mans is third place overall, so we have unfinished business there. We want to win and we have the knowledge to do that – for our customers, our employees and our fans. The competition is exceptionally strong and we are excited by the challenge."

"Our LM P1 program makes the connection between NISMO on the road and NISMO on the track, showcasing our brand DNA to a global audience," said Darren Cox, global head of Brand, Marketing & Sales, NISMO. "We are taking motorsport to the masses, telling tales of technical innovation but also human stories via all of the exciting communications channels that are open to us now. We will innovate off the track as well as on it, so you can be assured that this is just the beginning of the story."

2015 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO High Resolution Exterior
- image 614798

The intensive test program for the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO that began in Arizona last year continues in the U.S. Nissan’s full LM P1 driver line-up will be revealed soon.

New LM P1 Partnerships Revealed
Nissan also announced three multi-year partnerships that will feature prominently in its LM P1 program.

Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer is the Official Watch Partner and Official Timekeeping Partner. The LM P1 drivers will all wear TAG Heuer watches, and the partnership will be activated globally by both parties with several exciting developments to be announced in the coming months.

Motul is the Official Lubricants Partner for the program, working closely with NISMO’s engine department to develop high-performance products to enhance competitiveness and efficiency. Motul has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with NISMO over the past two decades, and this natural expansion into the LM P1 program comes soon after the Super GT Championship victory for the iconic #23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R.

2015 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO High Resolution Exterior
- image 614799

The LM P1 program will use tires supplied by Michelin. The French manufacturer has developed tires especially for the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO and been an integral part of the car’s extensive test program.

View the full press release Hide press release
Press release
What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: