KANAGAWA, Japan (Feb. 5, 2015) — Nissan Motorsports International Co. Ltd. has chosen Michelin Motorsport as a development partner for its LMP1 long-distance endurance racer, a front-engine, front-wheel-drive design that requires larger front tires to cope with the power from the car's 3-liter twin-turbo V6.
Michelin Motorsport Director Pascal Couasnon called the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO a “fantastic car” that will pose a challenge for tire development. Mr. Couasnon noted that Michelin has worked with Nissan successfully in the past few years, both in endurance racing with the “Garage 56” project that required narrow tire development and in Japan's Super GT championship.
Darren Cox, NISMO's global head of brand, marketing and sales, said, “It was…vital that we have a tire partner who is willing to push the boundaries with us so that we can innovate to the extreme” with the GT-R LM NISMO, which will run on 14-inch-wide tires at the front (size 31/71-16) and nine-inch-wide tires (20/71-16) at the rear.
In addition to the V6 driving the front wheels, the GT-R LM uses an energy-recovery system that retrieves braking energy from the front axle and returns it to the track via the front tires. Nissan said it aims to run in the highest of the four LMP1 sub-classes, which allows for eight megajoules of energy to be returned to the track over the 8.47-mile lap of Le Mans.
“The key is to store the energy and then release it very quickly,” said Ben Bowlby, technical director of the GT-R LM project, “and that's what makes our system very competitive, providing us with a good amount of power from the [energy-recovery system], which we can add to the internal combustion engine's driving power.”
The car's weight-forward mass distribution — due to the front-engine, front-wheel-drive configuration — necessitates moving the aerodynamic downforce forward as well, Mr. Bowlby said, thus requiring higher-capacity tires as well to cope with it.
“So the aero center of pressure, the mass center of gravity and the tire capacity are all in harmony,” he said, “and that means we have bigger tires at the front than the rear.”
Mr. Bowlby, who also designed the radical DeltaWing prototype racer — which featured an extremely narrow front track that required the development of special tires — said Nissan is taking advantage of the LMP1 regulations introduced ahead of last season's FIA World Endurance Championship to “turn the whole concept of the conventional LMP1 car of 2014 on its head.”
“It's all about how fast you release the energy — think about a stick of dynamite. We want to release the energy very quickly to get the car back up to speed very quickly because it's nice to spend lots of time at high speed.”
Nissan lifted the veil on the GT-R LM project in an ad that aired Feb. 1 during the telecast of Super Bowl XLIX. Nissan plans to run it in this year's FIA World Endurance Championship, which includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in June.