Details on Nissan’s new factory LMP1 program are emerging, including plans of running a third car at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as well as the identity of its team manager.
Multiple sources have confirmed to Sportscar365 that the Japanese manufacturer has brought on board IndyCar veteran Chris Mower to lead efforts for the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO program.
Mower, who is coming off a six-year stint with Panther Racing as its general manager, is understood to have started working with Nissan late last year at the manufacturer’s California-based facility.
Darren Cox, NISMO Global Head of Brand, Marketing & Sales, would not confirm Mower’s hiring but said that “Chris would be a good choice for sure.”
Cox, however, revealed that it’s their hope to enter a third car at Le Mans next year, alongside the already confirmed two full-season FIA World Endurance Championship entries.
It would result in the need of ten drivers, including one reserve driver, and Cox admitted they are looking at existing pilots from the LMP1 ranks to lead their roster.
“I think you’ve got to have existing LMP1 drivers in the lineup,” Cox told Sportscar365. “You can’t go with a bunch of rookies. We’re not going to have a go and look at someone who’s gone and done [GP2] but hasn’t done any prototype racing.
“There’s guys that have done single-seaters that have done prototype racing [experience] and they’re the first guys we’ll talk to after the current P1 drivers.”
As for ensuring space in the lineup for GT Academy drivers, Cox said there are no guarantees and their selection will be purely based on performance.
“[The GT Academy] drivers have to do it on ability, not the fact that I like them,” he said. “It’s the exactly the same on Japanese drivers, GT Academy drivers or anyone we got in our current lineup.
“We will pick the best 10 drivers that we can find.”
Additionally, Cox denied rumors that the GT-R LM NISMO is a front-engined prototype, with details on the powertrain not likely to be revealed until early next year.
“We believe that there’s still a significant amount of innovation left in the rules,” he said. “You will be surprised on what we do on the powertrain.”
The first car, believed to be under construction at Dan Gurney’s AAR workshop in Santa Ana, Calif., is expected to begin testing in October.
Cox confirmed the GT-R LM NISMO’s first four scheduled tests will be conducted in private, at undisclosed Nissan testing facilities, which are located around the world.