Nismo makes Le Mans more interesting with a gamble on downforce
HAVING lost more arguments with pavements than I have won in understeering, front-engined road cars, I am watching with keen interest the experiment by Nissan to rewrite the design book for racers in their Nismo LM P1.
The team principal and technical director of Nismo, Ben Bowlby said the car will be a first in the Le Mans endurance race, where it is to date “unique” for front wheel drive to attempt a win.
Traditionally, racers use the momentum from the weight of an oversteering rear-engined car to push through a corner, but Bowlby predicts Nismo would be able to, well, just bowl by the competitors using the proven benefits of a front engine’s weight on a straight, with the added advantage of the downforce from the bigger body in the corners.
Jann Mardenborough, the 2011 GT Academy winner and now LM 1 driver, said the long bonnet above Nismo’s frontwheel, front-engined approach will give them extra downforce to through corners faster and a couple of mile faster along Le Man’s long straights.
“The straights at Le Man is very long, you can gain a lot of time being a couple of miles an hour faster than the opposition,” said Mardenborough.
To overcome the understeer is the reason why other cars do not put a big block in the front of a 500 plus horsepower car.
“We are certainly pushing on the boundaries of people’s expectations and beliefs of what a Le Man car is and what can be fast.”
If the Nismo team are right, the GT-R LM will take the race to the limit against the Porsche 919 Hybrid and Audi R18 e-tron come June 13 and 14.
If they are wrong, the racing fraternity remains grateful to Nissan for not just pushing the boundaries, but making racing interesting.
The Nismo team (left) hopes gadgetry and a lot of downforce on GT-R LM will prevent the typical results of understeer (below).