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Amazing Race: Nissan’s GT-R LM NISMO is much more than a marketing exercise

CHICAGO – Feb. 19 – The following is an interview Darren Cox, Global Head, Brand, Marketing & Sales, NISMO, at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show. He talks about the GT-R LM NISMO,  a front-engined, front-wheel drive entry in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans in the LM P1 category. The GT-R LM NISMO is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 twin turbo gasoline engine and a Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS). SUBSCRIBE to NISMO.TV to find out more about this amazing race car. #GTR #HeroComesHome

Darren Cox: “We are here at Nissan World at the Chicago Auto Show. It seems that the star of the show is the Nissan LM P1 car.

“The interest in this car is incredible. They want to understand why the engine is in the front, why it is front-wheel-drive, what the tunnels do, what the *KERS system does. There is genuine interest in this car about why we are doing things differently.

“We didn’t do this to be different. We did this because we think it is the right thing to do: With a blank sheet of paper, what is the best way to try and win at Le Mans? We think this is the answer.

“The three key areas of innovation on this car are the aerodynamics, the engine and the hybrid system. The aerodynamics is basically because we are front-engine, front-wheel drive. It enabled us to package the car very differently. If you look, there are two tunnels through the car which help our aerodynamics. If you look at the front of the car, it looks like a piece of carbon the size of your kitchen table, which creates a huge amount of down-force. That’s one advantage in terms of the aerodynamics.

“The second one is the engine. It has not really been talked about much, but Nissan knows how to do V6s. And, Nissan certainly knows how to do twin-turbo V6s, and this engine is a peach. Not only in this championship do you have to have a powerful engine – of course you have to have a reliable engine – but the engine has to be very efficient. We think that is one of our big advantages, the efficiency of this engine that we have come up with. We worked with our engineers from NISMO who have got huge experience in V6 twin turbos, and in the new Super GT Championship in turbo charging engines. So we think there is a big advantage.

“And the KERS System that has been talked about a lot is the mechanical fly wheel system. It is fiendishly complicated, but if it works it could be our big advantage as well.

“The rear of the car for all of the cars in the championship are very restricted in terms of the downforce. So we have turned literally the rules on its head and we have got a lot of our downforce in the front.

“The big thing now is making sure that we work with our partners, specifically Michelin, making sure we have got the right tires. Because we have gone a different way in terms of the tire size, they are developing tires specifically for us.

“The thing with racing engineers is that they are never ready. They always want another hour, or another year, to perfect whatever that they are doing.

“There is a huge amount left to do on this. Honestly, if we get to Le Mans this year and are competitive, we know in the locker that for the following year we have got seconds in hand because of the developments we can do.

“The innovation here is not just around the car. It’s around the way we’ve approached the car. Where the project is based. But also the drivers. We have linked up a very successful program [Nissan’s] GT Academy with Sony, which seven or eight years ago people thought we were crazy to do. And now we have got two of those graduates from that program racing in this car.

“The drivers are having to re-learn what they know in terms of how to drive the car, and it will take them a little bit of time to get to know how to make the most out of the car. Of course, being front-engine, front-wheel drive they will have a different experience – a different way of driving the car into the corners, through the corners and out of the corners. And that is something that they are going to have to learn.

“Honestly, simulators help. We talk about GT Academy, but genuinely these guys are able to drive that. But some of them have never raced a front-engine, front-wheel-drive car. They’ve all come through single-seaters and rear engine so these guys are now having to use their brains a bit. And they like the challenge of working out what they need to do differently. We have a really good group of guys. We have got no egos and they are all helping each other to understand.

“We genuinely believe that our technology, our approach, will win us through. This is not a pure marketing exercise. It is a sporting exercise. And the success of the program of course is making sure more people hear about us, more people like Nissan.

“I think that motorsports have become a little bit staid. It’s become a bit ‘samey.’ Everyone’s cars look the same with different stickers on them. So they are applauding us for being ballsy. Of being different. Of living our brand: ‘Innovation that Excites.’

“One journalist who has been in the business for 40 years said: ‘I’ll be rooting for you at Le Mans.’ And that is what we wanted. We want people to want Nissan to do well.

“It is a lot easier to tell great stories when you are on the podium.”

* Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) fabricated by Torotrak, which will harvest energy from the front-wheel brakes.

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