Rad­i­cal vs tried and tested

Nis­san to em­u­late Audi with its any- wheel- drive LMP1 for the 2015 En­durance Cham­pi­onship

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - AL­WYN VILJOEN

WHEN Audi in­tro­duced its rad­i­cal qu­at­tro driv­e­train to rac­ing in the 1980s, they quickly rewrote all the record books.

Nis­san now plans to em­u­late Audi with its any- wheel- drive con­tender for the 2015 World En­durance Cham­pi­onship, which in­cludes the pres­ti­gious 24 hours of Le Mans.

Nis­san showed its rad­i­cal race car to the world at the open­ing of Amer­ica’s Su­per Bowl sea­son.

To fit in the power of all 2 000 horses they were aim­ing for at the start of the de­sign, the Ja­panese en­gi­neers had thrown away the rule book for this one. The tra­di­tional mid- en­gined, rear­wheel drive lay- out sim­ply can­not put down such power.

At the end, nei­ther could the LMP1’ s front- en­gined all- wheel drive lay­out, as the horse­power is now re­duced to a still hefty team of 1 250 horses, which trans­lates to over 930 kW, all of which can be re­leased like a stick of ex­plod­ing dy­na­mite.

Au­tosport quotes the Bri­tish tech­ni­cal direc­tor of the GT- R LM project Ben Bowlby as say­ing the car’s front- axle ki­netic hy­brid sys­tem al­lows the driver to make the most of the en­ergy re­trieved from the three- litre twin- turbo V6 and fly­wheels

“It’s all about how fast you re­lease the en­ergy — think about a stick of dy­na­mite,” he said.

“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.

“The key is to store the en­ergy and then re­lease it very quickly and that’s what makes our sys­tem very com­pet­i­tive, pro­vid­ing us with a good amount of power from the ERS, which we can add to the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine’s driv­ing power.”

The power comes from a twin- turbo- charged 3,0- litre V6 work­ing in con­junc­tion with an elec­tric drive sys­tem.

To put all that power down the front tyres are made wider five inches wider than the nine- inch rear tyres.

The front- mounted en­gine and gear box push the cabin far back, so that the ex­haust out­lets emerge in front of the wind­screen. It re­mains to be seen whether the flames that belch from any high- revving en­gine when not un­der load will blind the racer or thrill the fans.

Un­der the driver’s feet a Ki­netic En­ergy Re­cov­ery Sys­tem, ( Kers) cap­tures and sends the car’s mo­men­tum through a col­lec­tion of re­duc­tion gears to a weighted fly­wheel.

Kers- sys­tems nor­mally con­vert the ki­netic en­ergy to elec­tric­ity, stor­ing it in a bat­tery or ca­pac­i­tor, but Nis­san said its fly­wheel hy­brid sys­tem saves the dead- weight of bat­ter­ies and can re­lease the en­ergy quicker.

Bowlby told Road and Track an­other trick up the LMP1’ s air in­takes is just that — the air in­takes. In­stead of hav­ing the air go in and vent over the front wheels to be forced around the car as is the case in mid- en­gined cars, the air just rushes straight through the LMP1. This dramatically im­proves the three­me­tre long car’s abil­ity to slip through the wall of air that dams up in front of a speed­ing car while also re­duc­ing its fuel con­sump­tion.

Nis­san global head of mar­ket­ing and brand strat­egy Roel de Vries said while they will be the rook­ies at Le Mans and re­spect the likes of Audi as “the best in the world” Nis­san is nev­er­the­less ready to take them on with its rad­i­cal race car.

“This is in­no­va­tion that ex­cites,” said Shoichi Miy­atani, pres­i­dent of Nismo, Nis­san’s mo­tor­sports and per­for­mance di­vi­sion. “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.”

Whether all the in­no­va­tion will tri­umph over the tried and tested only time will tell, and this writer for one has his alarm set for 4 pm on June 13, when the LMP1 gets its clas­sic test against the petrol Porsche and diesel Audi rac­ers at the Cir­cuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, France.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

The el­e­ments of the Nis­san attack: a car­bon fi­bre body, hol­low flanks, a tiny but pow­er­ful V6 and a fly­wheel that can send ex­plo­sive power to any or all four wheels.

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