Following the recent announcement of Renault’s return to in F1, it has been confirmed that Nissan has withdrawn from LM P1 endurance racing, despite a two-day test with the GT-R LM-Nismo in New Orleans and earlier confirmation of a participation in the 2016 FIA WEC.
The decision spells the end of the ambitious technical and marketing project which was launched prior to the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours when Nissan revealed its plans to revolutionise prototype racing. The Renault-Nissan Alliance’s CEO Carlos Ghosn personally announced Nissan’s return to Le Mans.
The avant-garde Nissan GT-R LM-Nismo (front-engined, front-wheel drive, KERS hybrid, etc.) designed by Ben Bowlby (of DeltaWing and ZEOD RC fame) was unveiled in a video during the USA’s Superbowl final on February 2, 2015.
It was a good marketing coup from the programme’s leader Darren Cox who announced that a line-up of three cars would compete at Le Mans on the social media.
The programme suffered several delays, however, and early testing in the USA threw up a number of problems, forcing Nissan to withdraw from late-March’s FIA WEC Prologue test in France and from the season’s first two rounds.
The three Japanese prototypes were finally seen in public for the first time at the eight-hour pre-Le Mans test day on May 31, but the N°23 car could only manage the 18th-best time (3m43.383s), 22.322s short of the quickest Porsche.
Then, in official qualifying, none of the cars succeeded in lapping within 10 percent of the pole-winner’s time and the Nissans were only authorised to start thanks to permission from the stewards. Two of the three prototypes failed to finish the race itself (loose wheel, suspension), while the N°23 car crossed the line (+153 laps) but was not officially classified after failing to complete a sufficiently long distance. The team’s fastest race lap was a 3m35.888s posted by Harry Tincknell on Lap 124.
Nissan subsequently pulled out of the remainder of the 2015 WEC but confirmed a two-car entry for 2016. Sadly, we will no longer see the Nissan GT-R LM Nismo in action…