Future of Nissan LMP1 Program Under Review

Photo: Nissan

Photo: Nissan

The future of Nissan’s LMP1 program is being decided this week in Japan, with high-level executive meetings following a challenging debut in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Multiple industry sources have confirmed to Sportscar365 that the meetings could decide whether the Japanese manufacturer will continue with its planned two-year program with its current specification GT-R LM NISMO.

Nissan debuted three of the radical front-engined, front-wheel drive cars at Le Mans last month and struggled with pace and reliability issues.

While one car took the checkered flag, it was not classified at the end due to spending more than one-third of the race in the garage. All three cars ran with its hybrid systems deactivated due to persistent issues.

Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn admitted, during a press conference at last month’s Formula E race in London, that the program is under evaluation.

“Nissan has always been associated with innovation,” Ghosn said. “We made an attempt that did not prove fruitful. We must reassess the strategy.

“We wanted to be different and competitive but we’ve only been different.”

A Nissan spokesperson told Sportscar365 that it’s “business as normal” for the LMP1 team, with the U.S.-based operation preparing for a test at Circuit of The Americas on July 27-28.

The team is expected to roll out with updates to the car at the test, including revised bodywork, suspension and brakes.

54 Comments

  1. Christian

    July 16, 2015 at 9:40 am

    It’s incredible how people can be so judgemental so fast, even from a CEO!!! I mean, calm down, IT WAS THEIR FIRST FREAKING RACE!!! I’m sure they’ll pick up the pace if they keep participating in races and continue testing the cars. It took a year and a half for Dodge to win a race with their Vipers, and ended up winning the championship after THREE YEARS. My goodness, people want results so fast and that’s just not how it works. I can tell how much Carlos Ghosn follows motorsports especially endurance racing. So dissapointing.

    • Joe

      July 16, 2015 at 9:50 am

      The Viper wasn’t lapping 20 seconds off the pace of the Vettes in their first race. In fact, in their first outing they were less than 3 seconds off the pole speed in their class and were not last in their class in either qualifying or finishing position.

      • Lyra

        July 16, 2015 at 9:54 am

        The Viper raced in BoP class, not comparable to LMP1.

        • Scott Pruett

          July 16, 2015 at 10:28 am

          LMP1 is just as balanced as GTLM. I don’t see Porsche and Toyota struggling.

          Nissan tried something different and failed. They are smart to cut their loss and move on. Maybe they come run a program in TUSC LMP2

          • Bakkster

            July 16, 2015 at 10:54 am

            No, it’s not ‘just as balanced’. GTE balances each car to each other car (though they still need to meet a minimum performance, so you can still get duds like the Jaguar and Lotus), LMP1 only balances diesel fuel to petrol fuel.

            It’s tough to say how much of the car’s pace was a result of the new concept and are inherent in the car, and how much was a result of component failures (namely the non-operational hybrid) and its knock-on effects. I’d actually think better of Nissan for trying to improve it, rather than withdrawing it and never racing again like Aston Martin did.

          • F1GTR

            July 16, 2015 at 1:33 pm

            ”LMP1 is just as balanced as GTLM.”
            Nope, there’s no artificial balance between the cars in LMP1 like there is in GTE and GT3. Competition in LMP1 is based on who develops the best car.

            ”I don’t see Porsche and Toyota struggling.”
            Have you even watched a WEC race? Toyota is nowhere this year.

          • Mike D.

            July 16, 2015 at 3:04 pm

            Shows how much you pay attention to WEC this year then — Toyota lost by nearly double digit laps on pace alone.

            If that doesn’t qualify as nowhere, being nearly 30 minutes slower than your competition, I don’t know what does.

          • Cadillac Deville

            July 30, 2015 at 11:25 pm

            OMG Jordan would be having a field day with this statement!

        • Joe

          July 16, 2015 at 1:32 pm

          That wasn’t the point of my statement. My point was exactly what you said. Not a fair comparison.

          • Joe

            July 16, 2015 at 2:50 pm

            I have no idea what Nissan is thinking (as an entity). And I don’t disagree it seems a bit premature to throw in the towel. That said, all I meant was it is one thing to go out there on your first try and be the slowest. No harm there. None. To go out there and get beat by the LMP2 class, and, at the right track, the GTpro class…well, a corporate entity can only get that kind of bad press for so long. And it is here where I revert back to my first sentence. At which point, it might be a good time to point out here that Nissan blew a stack of cash on a Super Bowl ad that effectively touted a car that can’t compete…yet (if ever). Seems premature. Maybe that’s Nissan’s business model.

      • Christian

        July 16, 2015 at 10:00 am

        Ok but that’s not my point. We’re talking about LMP1 here. A whole different game than GTLM. You have to have patience in developing an LMP1 car compared with a GT. LMP1s are extremely complicated, and using “revolutionary” technology isn’t gonna make things easier either. Give them time, and they’ll catch up. But these statements, and bashing the whole crew like Carlos did is completely unprofessional and ridiculous.

        • Boxerzrule

          July 17, 2015 at 3:19 pm

          Last season was Porsches first in LMP1 and they were very competitive. Nissan had 3 cars at Le Mans and were being passed by LMP2 cars on the first lap. Le Mans should not have been the stage for their first race. They had to have known how far off the pace they would be. I read an article right after Le Mans where an executive from another team put Nissan on full-blast for making the race a “advertising event” for their brand. With all the advertising they did, including the Superbowl, you would think they would have had a car that could at least compete in the class.

          • Torontoworker

            July 17, 2015 at 8:46 pm

            In fact during the Radio LeMans broadcast – several of the commentators came right out and said that Le Mans is a motor RACE and not an extended TEST session in response to a NISSAN statement that they were using the 24 Hour race as ‘development session’. That’s what this race is about. Had the ACO heard that months before I’m sure they would have asked them to stay home and keep out of the way!

    • Tarek R.

      July 16, 2015 at 10:03 am

      This is a full factory effort, with a big big budget. There are no excuses for having such poor performances with all that money. Let’s be honest Nissan opted for a very wrong package and since its

      Toyota too returned to Le Mans in 2012 and was not far from Audi’s pace.

      • Christian

        July 16, 2015 at 10:08 am

        Yeah but is the Toyota a FWD? Don’t think so. Also I’ll have you know Audi didn’t win in their first outing at Le Mans in 1999 and they brought 4 cars.

        • Tarek R.

          July 16, 2015 at 10:16 am

          Audi took a podium that year. Nissan was racing with LMP2s this year 🙂

          • Christian

            July 16, 2015 at 10:33 am

            Make sure you understand the Nissan cars are FWD. Let me know when a succesful factory FWD prototype last competed at Le Mans or even took on a challenge of that magnitude.

          • AudiTT

            July 16, 2015 at 11:04 am

            The Nissan isn’t intended to be FWD it’s designed to be 4WD with the hybrid proportion driving the rear wheels and a total of 1000bhp.

            Its Nissan’s fault for not having this all up and running, but what we see on track is far from the cars intended spec and performance level.

      • Bakkster

        July 16, 2015 at 10:55 am

        The Nissan was still better than Aston Martin’s last attempt at LMP1. The AMR-One only lasted 6 laps… combined.

    • AudiTT

      July 16, 2015 at 10:17 am

      The CEO was asked a question about the GT-R at a Formula E event. I wouldn’t take it as anything other than stating the obvious – assessing what direction they take next.

      The most obvious steps are to further develop the car, or take longer to see if they need a new direction.

    • Mike

      July 16, 2015 at 11:01 am

      Yeah and Dodge and some CEO above said we are taking our Vipers and going home after winning that GTLM title. $$ and budgets talk inside the corporation which the first priority is to sell cars. They can be fickle.

      • Christian

        July 16, 2015 at 2:55 pm

        LOL it’s FIAT they shouldn’t have been racing in the first place.

    • Bob

      July 16, 2015 at 11:56 am

      The methodology of design can be unique & innovative, but if the end results are a big failure in front of a global audience, you’ve got some explaining to do to the CEO. The CEO that you convinced to give you millions to support your unique car design. A car company that is a top player. Come on. You don’t understand the CEO’s reaction? Money is tight everywhere. To get a company to support sponsorship, or in this case, a racing program, is very difficult. If you convince a company to support this, yeah, they want positive results. Not an embarrassment in the most prestigious race on the globe. Duh? FWD or not. Doesn’t matter!

    • racefan

      July 16, 2015 at 12:16 pm

      Carlos Ghosn’s position on the matter is fair. Unlike a privateer project, this project involved a major car brand and therefore the stakes are very high. It was very hyped and so far has been detrimental to the Nissan brand.

      The fact of the matter is this US-based project team were ill prepared for Le Mans this year. It would have been better spend more time testing and commit to debut in 2016.

      One would question how well this project was managed. Surely they knew from concept stage that there would be many major challenges to overcome, given the level of novelty.

      The Bowlby-led team riding on the Nissan brand have GROSSLY under estimated the complexity of the project. The difficulty was further compounded because they chose to overhype the PR.

      This is why factory teams test in secret and keep their programme under wraps until they have the confidence to reveal. Otherwise they will have egg on their faces. Furthermore this seems to be a US works project operating using the Nissan and NISMO brand. For this, any damage to the manufacturer brand is the fault of Nissan themselves. They should have been more careful who they allow association with.

      Lastly the ‘3-year’ teams mention about Le Mans is to do with trying to win Le Mans. This does not mean Year 1 you’re 20s off the pace and can’t even get classified.

      In my view, the Nissan LMP1 concept is innovative and may have great potential however from a Project Management point of view it is a major F*CK UP.

      • L'etranger

        July 17, 2015 at 5:15 am

        Ghosn is known to be a very pragmatic and results-oriented.

        He’s also lukewarm on motorsports, and only willing to participate if they achieve the desired objective.

        Renault, and the Infiniti brand promotion in F1 was palatable as long as they got the results, which they did during the Vettel years. But with Renault now under-performing, and being bad-mouthed at every turn by Red Bull, I could easily see them calling it a day in F1 as well.

        I’d hate to see the P1 program end, but they got embarrassed at Le Mans. There are a myriad of reasons for that, and if they do continue, I’d expect to see changes made, and a tighter leash put on them.

  2. rissas dad

    July 16, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Not sure why the Japanese manufacturers arent willing to spend and do what is necessary to compete at the highest level of sportscars, LMP1. Toyota has been the only one, but as everyone can see this year development didnt keep up with the competition. Toyota seems content with last years results and to ride this year out with a little-changed ’14 spec car and it has shown this year. Nissan, Toyota, Mazda, and Honda continue to get beat by the Germans. Now Nissan is considering pulling the plug already? Everything rolls along strong, them “bam”, a reminder of how fickle the manufacturers are.

    • rissas dad

      July 16, 2015 at 9:55 am

      to clarify my mistake, know Honda and Mazda dont compete with the Germans, but they suffer the same attitude of not being all-in in sportscar competition. Content with supplying engines for the most part.

    • Bakkster

      July 16, 2015 at 10:58 am

      I think it’s similar with the US, both have strong national series to showcase their stuff. The Japanese Super GT is also more highly technical, to date probably beat only by LMP1.

    • racefan

      July 16, 2015 at 10:37 pm

      Among all the LMP1 factory teams, Toyota is the one with the smallest budget. Given their very limited resource they’ve decided to focus a significantly new car for next year, and therefore compromising on development for this season.

  3. Jaymondo

    July 16, 2015 at 9:46 am

    Sick with it !!! Give it time. You never know, you might just have something.

  4. Fr3D

    July 16, 2015 at 9:57 am

    I don’t think there is much hope with this design, if they move to the 8MJ class it will only increase the mighty stress on the front end. They might as well rebuild, make it mid-engined, use the 2.0L turbo 4 from the GT500 GTR + electricity and make it all wheel drive, pretty much like the Porsche 919. It would involve an enormous amount of money and I doubt they’re willing to do it because there is zero guarantee of success. Anyway, as a Nissan fan I wish them the best.

    • AudiTT

      July 16, 2015 at 10:36 am

      The projected 500bhp+ 8MJ system would be located in the rear, improving weight distribution. It would also drive the rear wheels, improving traction and lessening stress on the front.

      So the more power they add (with hybrid), the better the car should perform. The only way to judge the cars performance is when it’s in its intended final form.

      The V6TT engine is also a major plus point, powerful, efficient, compact and reliable

  5. Andy

    July 16, 2015 at 10:04 am

    What I did find disappointing with Nissan was the problem with the hybrid drive. I appreciate they may have been let down by suplliers but that seemed to be a fundamental slip-up with the programme. If that had been sorted, the story today would be very different. Nissan’s issue is not afew aero tweeks and balancing – the car is missing a great chunk of power.

  6. Fabio

    July 16, 2015 at 10:08 am

    Business as usual for the LMP1 team. I remember that, when the Peugeot LMP1 team was setting up its tents in Sebring for the opening round of the WEC, and one of those Board Meetings told them to go home.

    • Scott Pruett

      July 16, 2015 at 10:30 am

      Cannot agree more. This is the the price you pay for such expensive racing – teams can be there one day, gone the next.

      • Richard Reeves

        July 16, 2015 at 1:28 pm

        I respectfully disagree. Peugeot never embraced the ALMS or the US market (they don’t sell cars here). Audi loves the place (Sebring), was always open to the fans and raced there from 1999 to 2013. That’s quite a long time in top-line sports car racing. Audi continues to test at Sebring. Audi sales have gone BALLISTIC in the US since 1999.

        If Nissan chooses to pull out of the P1 class–so what? Their loss. Bad concept. Stupid idea. The laws of free-market Capitalism. They’ll still power 100% of the LMP2 class for the forseeable future.

        I still remember the Porsche 917 as the greatest sports prototype I ever saw race. Will anyone say this about DP cars?? The 917’s raced for exactly three years. “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp,” as Robert Browning said. The Apollo program landed men on the moon. Would you prefer the low-altitude space shuttle?

        • Scott Pruett

          July 16, 2015 at 2:25 pm

          I couldn’t quite pick out what you disagreed with

  7. the boot

    July 16, 2015 at 10:47 am

    Proper factory teams don’t turn wheels in January and race 5 months later. They should have spent all of 2015 testing with a proper launch in 2016. Factory teams never race before the car is fully operation. Racing without the flywheel system was pointless and embarrassing.

    • Bakkster

      July 16, 2015 at 11:15 am

      Aston Martin did it in 2011, and it was even more embarrassing for them. Minimal testing, dropping out of the early races, then a poor showing at Le Mans.

  8. Ernie2492

    July 16, 2015 at 11:15 am

    Maybe we’ll see GT-R LM Nismo in normal configuration.

    • Bakkster

      July 16, 2015 at 11:30 am

      That would require a clean-sheet design, and at that point there’s no guarantee they’d have a better car (certainly not by next season).

      On another page I made the same point and Darren Cox himself liked my post, so take that for what it’s worth. I doubt there’s a ‘Plan B’ for an RMR prototype (their doubt of building a competitive RMR prototype was the whole reason the GT-R LM is the way it is in the first place).

      • Ernie2492

        July 16, 2015 at 3:29 pm

        Thanks mate. I rather have a faith to them than bashing them.

  9. 7D3

    July 16, 2015 at 11:54 am

    I’ll bet if Nissan might go back to the drawing board and this time, come into the WEC with a rear wheeled drive car (Like the rest of the Field) and a sister GTE Pro team and they will be in business on winning races.

    Nissan Motorsports No: 21, 22, 23
    Nissan GT Academy Team RJN No: 55, 80

    • Nick1

      July 16, 2015 at 12:04 pm

      GT convergence is dead buddy, Nissan won’t be going into GTE

  10. Steven

    July 16, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Give it time. The hybrid system didn’t work so they were running at the same power level as LMP2 with the added weight of a hybrid system.

    With that radical design and system being in LMP1, the opportunity to struggle was going to happen. Think how much Toyota, Audi, and Porsche already put into their programs, these are not small budget racing teams. Nissan said they could have copied and pasted designs but they went a different route which is the spirit of prototype racing. It has only competed in one race and that was for 24 hours.

  11. Jenner

    July 16, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    All the hype, the picture of a covered prototype, the dark sidepod shots, the silhouettes shots, the Super Bowl commercial. All this build up for what? A “Racecar” built for Playstation’s Gran Turismo.

    Great marketing. Nissan should just stick to drifting and the import car scene where they belong. Leave the racing to the Big Boys.

  12. Jim McGree

    July 16, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    Any car that blows exhaust on the windshield is poorly designed, Nissan should can it,, shame they threw away millions on somebody’s pipe dream, much like Mazda is doing with their puny 4 cyl diesel prototype.

    • Jareth Belanger

      July 20, 2015 at 8:05 am

      Escent the sky actives are as budg set lmp as you can get. An outdated chassis, by a defunct manufacturer, with a production engine. In a field of constantly updated chassis and racing built engines. Mazda is already switching to a AER engine for next year, and probably holding onto the Lola till they can convert to the new chassis.

  13. Raphael

    July 17, 2015 at 12:59 am

    id say the project is as good as a flop; they were all bark and no bite. lets just hope they got some kind of trump card up their sleeve.

  14. Dill pickles

    July 18, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    24 Hours of Le Mans
    Race? Or Development Session?

    Racing IS development. Better engines, tires, aero, headlights, all of this is a byproduct of racing and all of it is DEVELOPMENT.

    NISSAN sucked. But, they were/are trying new angles to attack the same problem—how to get a car around faster and more reliably than your competition. That is racing. And racing is developing.

    They were slow. It was a failure. But that doesnt mean they cant tweak it to success.

    Or can someone explain to me how racing and development are not the same (I guess spec classes arent realllllly originally developing anything…)?

    • Jareth Belanger

      July 20, 2015 at 8:08 am

      Because the development of racing has always happened before the big race? Do you really know nothing? The only time when you try something new is during testing or practice. And even then barely during practice because the car has to be scrutinized.

  15. Troll Me

    July 19, 2015 at 11:59 am

    A MOST SHAMEFUR DISPRAY

    COMMIT SUDOKU

  16. Mr. Fab

    July 20, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    Ben Bowlby’s Delta Wing design was interesting and still shows potential. His Nissan LMP-1 design, though “innovative”, is simply an example of ridiculous over-engineering design. I’m a Nissan driver who wants Nissan to compete at the hightest levels and WIN. I wish him no ill will and think it unlikely Mr. Bowlby will get another chance to play in the racing big leagues again. Sadly this Nissan GT-R LMP-1 is a classic example of how NOT to design an innovative GTP endurance racecar. Mr. Ghosn sums it up wanting to be innovative AND competitive. Innovation for its own sake usually doesn’t become anything more. Pick a corner, Mr. Bowlby, now go stand in it.

  17. S

    July 21, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    I’m no engineer, but I think Bowlby’s designs affect reliability. The Delta Wing has always had reliability issues, and it seems like the Nissan prototype has its own issues. I cannot correlate the two with hard evidence but perhaps it’s a matter of packaging the internals in a way that compromise reliability in an endurance race.

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