The moment has arrived. On June 13 at 9 a.m. EST/6 a.m. PST, three Nissan GT-R LM NISMOs will begin the greatest race in the world, marking Nissan's return to the premier LM P1 class at the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The three radical front-engined, front-wheel drive Nissan GT-R LM NISMOs will compete at Le Mans with an international squad of drivers from Formula One, sportscar racing and Nissan's own GT Academy.
Ex-F1 star Max Chilton (GB), GT Academy winner and GP3 racer Jann Mardenborough (GB) and sportscar supremo Olivier Pla (FRA) 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 (GER), along with LM P2 Le Mans winner Harry Tincknell (GB) and Nissan GT ace Alex Buncombe (GB).
"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."
The #21 Nissan will only race at Le Mans, and it has been given a very special livery to celebrate the Nissan R90CK that blasted its way to pole position at Le Mans 25 years ago. The #21 car is resplendent in a red, white and blue livery that has already proved a huge hit with racing fans. Tasked with racing the iconic car will be current Super GT Champion Tsugio Matsuda (JAP), the first GT Academy winner, and now Super GT500 racer Lucas Ordonez (ESP), and the first winner of GT Academy Russia, Mark Shulzhitskiy (RUS).
"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."
The Nissan GT-R LM NISMO is still at an early stage of its development, having first hit the track in November 2014. With every test comes progress, as was the case at last weekend's official Le Mans Test Day - the public debut for Nissan's LM P1 car. The three GT-R LM NISMOs completed over 1500kms of running, gathering precious data to aid the development of the car.
The three Nissan GT-R LM NISMOs will be back on the track at Le Mans on Wednesday, June 10, for the 10 a.m. EST/7 a.m. PST free practice session. Qualifying for Le Mans takes place across three sessions on Wednesday and Thursday evenings before the 83rd running of the Le Mans 24 Hours gets underway on Saturday, June 13 at 9 a.m. EST/6 a.m. PST.
Nissan Still the Engine of Choice at Le Mans
With Nissan-powered cars taking the LM P2 class victory at Le Mans three times in the last four years, it is no surprise the NISMO-tuned Nissan VK45DE V8 engine is still the power plant of choice for the LM P2 teams. Fourteen of the 19 LM P2 cars at Le Mans are powered by Nissan.
Add to this the three Nissan GT-R LM NISMOs with their bespoke V6 twin-turbo engines, and 30 percent of the entire Le Mans grid is powered by Nissan.