Nissan stole the sports car racing headlines last week when it announced its long-awaited return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the top prototype class, unveiling plans to run a two-car, factory LMP1 effort in the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship. (En Français)
Fifteen years after its last works Le Mans program, the Japanese manufacturer will unleash the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO as part of a multi-national effort including utilizing resources in Europe, the U.S. and Japan.
Endurance-Info caught up with NISMO President Shoichi Miyatani to not only get his thoughts on LMP1, but also GT3, GT500, GTE, DTM, GTD and more.
What is your view on the Blancpain Endurance Series?
“You can see that there are many brands. In fact, most major manufacturers are present, which provides very good races. Even if the cars are of different design, the lap times are very close.
“GT3 is a success and that cannot be denied. We have these brands in the Super GT300 class.
“There is a link between the two series. Fans watch Super GT but also the Blancpain Endurance Series. It’s a global program. The GT300 class is a great success.”
Regarding GT500, are you satisfied with the season and the new regulations?
“The new rules reduce costs, which is not negligible. I’m satisfied with the evolution of the championship even if for the moment it is still somewhat in a discovery mode.
“The Nissan GT-R is fast and it already has a victory. At Fuji, the GT-R exceeded 300 kph, which is faster than GTE.”
Will there be a Nissan GT-R for DTM?
“To date, nothing is confirmed. There are discussions with the organizers of DTM on various issues but nothing has [been confirmed]. It’s planned to have an exhibition at the end of the season, possibly in Japan, where cars from both championships can race. Why not [do the same] in 2015 in Germany or elsewhere?”
Is it possible to see a GT-R Nismo in GTE?
“The GT convergence discussions have not been easy. We would like to see a GT-R Nismo GT3 with some modifications race at Le Mans. But to develop a real GTE car is not at all on the agenda because it requires too many resources for the small amount of cars sold.
“We previously developed a GT1 version without finally being able to put it on the track at Le Mans. The car cost us a lot of money and took a lot of time to develop. Unfortunately, GT1 cars were banned shortly after.
“In all series, it takes three years for continuity, which is not sufficient for a manufacturer. It takes a good view of the future. GT3 works perfectly well, so we hope this will continue for some time.”
What about a Nissan GT-R in the TUDOR Championship in GTD?
“The subject is being discussed with Nissan USA for the future. Why not for 2015? The GTD category seems very interesting. You just have to look closely at the regulations.”
Why did you decide to return to the LMP1 class?
“The new rules have sparked interest. Nissan intends to show its technological know-how with a few innovations. The rules allow flexibility, which seduces us.
“If we return to Le Mans ,this is not to follow and do what others do, it’s to be innovative. This is in Nissan and Nismo’s DNA.
“However, we are well aware that it take a bit of luck to win. We hope to win and I would say that we want to win. I want our LMP1 to be recognized by other manufacturers as a competitive car.
“If everything works correctly in 2015 or 2016, we can win. The LMP1 program is for at least two years.”
After a period of hybrid LMP1 cars, could you see an all-electric GT-R LM NISMO prototype?
“It is true that there should be new rules in 2017 but frankly, I think it’s too early to win with a fully electric car.”
Will the presence of the Nissan ZEOD RC at Le Mans this year help you for the LMP1 program?
“Part of the management will be on the LMP1 program. The shakedown is planned for October. We still don’t know when the car will be shown for the first time.”
What does Le Mans mean to you?
“This race means a lot to me. Nissan has tried in the past to win but in vain. There is a true partnership between Nissan and Le Mans.
“When you enter the showroom at NISMO, the first car you see is a Nissan from the 1998 race. There’s another model from Le Mans on the wall.
“Many people at NISMO are fans of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. There is a lot of emotion for our return to La Sarthe.”