FIA WEC

FIA WEC: New Nissan Won’t Race Till Le Mans

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While the focus of the sports car world is on the upcoming Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring this Saturday, the majority of European-based runners are preparing for the upcoming slate that is the FIA World Endurance Championship. With races at Silverstone, England in April, and Spa-Francochamps, Belgium in May the series provides two six-hour race distance simulators for teams and cars preparing to compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in early June. One major player in the 2015 LMP-1 prototype fleet, however, has elected to take a different route in its pre-Le Mans plans.

After initially committing to a two-car full time fleet in the FIA World Endurance Championship, with an additional entry added in for Le Mans and select other events, the Japanese marque has elected to pass up the races in England and Belgium and instead will focus on private testing their way to a full race debut at Le Mans. The change in plans comes from a series of maladies on and off the track during the last seven days.

Followingtheir first public revealing of their new challenger, via a one-minute commercial spot aired during the NFL’s Super Bowl XLIX broadcast last month, the team’s out of the box philosophy for their LMP-1 Hybrid prototype has proven to be a little bit of an Achilles’ heal. The front-engined layout of the GT-R LM NISMO, something that has not been seen with a prototype design since Dr. Don Panoz’s LMP-1 roadster, has been faroff the pace when compared directly with other LMP-1 challengers, including the Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro which shared the track with Nissan duringprivate testing at Sebring International Raceway last week, a test that was cut a day short for Nissan following a major mechanical malady sufferedon the difficult and bumpy 3.7 mile layout.

A further blow was dealt by the FIA during the same week, when the GT-R LM NISMO failed a required crash test, something every car must pass before being declared eligible to compete in FIA or ACO supported events. The area of concern reportedly was the center roll hoop on the car, something important should the car leave the ground during a crash. Although an adjustment can be made quickly to remedy the situation to where it could complete and pass another crash test as early as next week, the changes could also alter the aerodynamics and performance of the entry, something that can only be fixed properly via additional on-track work and not necessarily in race mode.

As for its Plan B road to Le Mans, Nissan is planning to continue its testing program, which has been primarily based within the United States, taking place at both Sebring and at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. The latter of the two is part of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship schedule and while LMP-1’s are no longer eligible to compete in the 12 Hours of Sebring, the nature of the circuit makes it a prime place to test the toughness of a car to its greatest extremes.

Nissan becomes the second LMP-1 regular in the FIA WEC to pass up the opening round in England, following Rebellion Racing who are making changes to their non-hybrid R-One chassis to be able to house an AER engine as opposed to the Toyota they had used since 2011.

 

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About Matt Embury

Matt Embury is the Senior SportsCar Writer at Rubbings Racing and can be followed on Twitter (@MattEmbury) for the latest sports car news and opinions. A native of Mishawaka, Indiana, he has been following sports car racing for nearly 20 years.

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