With its driver lineup to finalize, its energy subclass to determine and its car to continue to perfect with every passing test, Nissan will have a very hectic month-plus in the run-up to The Prologue at Paul Ricard to kick off the FIA World Endurance Championship season.
Nonetheless, Nissan is still banking a healthy amount of testing on-track, while also maximizing its exposure off-track, as evidenced by the decision to have a public unveiling of the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO at this week’s Chicago Auto Show.
The dual platform Chicago launch and testing in Florida this week hits both of Nissan’s targets at the moment, according to Darren Cox, NISMO’s global head of brand, marketing & sales.
“The easier thing for us to have done would be to have done [the launch] in Japan or at the Prologue,” Cox told Sportscar365. “But we love being here. This car is the star of the show, I would say.”
While this car is present in Chicago, testing with another chassis in Florida is ongoing on the other side of the country.
This week’s test at Palm Beach International Raceway sees the Nissan doing night running along with its usual systems checks, Cox said.
Prior to the PBIR run, Cox confirmed the car ran at Michelin’s proving ground facility in South Carolina last week. The Michelin location joins Nissan’s facility in Phoenix and Circuit of the Americas in Austin as testing hotbeds for the car thus far.
In early March, Cox confirmed Nissan will test at Sebring International Raceway for several days, running alongside Audi.
Driver-wise, with this week’s confirmation of Jann Mardenborough, Lucas Ordonez and Michael Krumm to the lineup, Nissan now has seven of its nine race drivers confirmed.
The hunt for a potential American driver for 2016 remains an ongoing process, with Cox confirming both past Nissan GT Academy winners and other Americans will be in with a distinct shot.
“But we’re not going to put an GT Academy American gamer in the car just to do so; we’ll put him in if he’s good enough,” Cox said.
Cox expects to finalize this year’s full driver lineup by the Geneva Motor Show, which runs from March 5-15.
The third driver on the third Le Mans entry, the No. 21 with Ordonez and Tsugio Matsuda, will be from within the Nissan family, Cox said.
What will take longer to finalize is the car’s energy subclass, whether the GT-R LM NISMO will run in the 2, 4, 6 or 8 megajoule category.
“We’ll be deciding at the last possible minute … like everyone else,” Cox said. “I was at the FIA WEC event in Paris last week, and even Toyota don’t know what they’re running, and they’ve had a year to run already. Everyone expects them at 8 megajoules, but they wouldn’t tell the FIA.
“But that’s the beauty of this championship. You have four different internal combustion engines, four different hybrid engine systems, possibly four different categories in terms of megajoules, I don’t know. But somehow, it’s a 3D seesaw.”
Cox was particularly enthused by the success of Nissan’s “With Dad” Super Bowl ad, which saw the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO officially revealed to the world for the first time.
“It was way, way beyond what we expected,” he said. “The Super Bowl ad had 22 million views (on YouTube). The P1 specific ad had a huge ‘roll time’ of 180 percent, compared to the average of about 25. So this means on average, people are watching it twice!”
In addition, Cox noted how compared to the Nissan DeltaWing, which premiered in 2012, the Nissan LMP1 project has more public supporters at the outset.
“With the DeltaWing, people wanted us to fail because it looked so different and they couldn’t get their heads around it,” he said.
“Now they want this to work because it’s different, it looks great, and people want something different within LMP1. They want it to do well, and the fan response has been fantastic.”