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Palmer: “To Win at Le Mans You Have to be Innovative”

Nissan planning to continue innovation with new LMP1 program…

Photo: Nissan

Photo: Nissan

On the heels of its ZEOD RC Garage 56 entry that’s poised to make history at Le Mans next month, Nissan officially took the wraps off its new signature sports car program, the GT-R LM NISMO, which will mark the Japanese manufacturer’s return to top-level factory prototype racing.

READ: Nissan Announces Factory LMP1 Program for 2015

The announcement was made Friday at an event in London, with key executives from Nissan, Nismo and the FIA WEC/ACO all attendance.

Below is a Q&A with Nissan’s Chief Planning Office & Executive Vice-President Andy Palmer:

Why is motorsport so important to Nissan?

“Nissan is all about Innovation and Excitement; what better way to showcase that brand DNA than on the race circuits of the world.

“In the past three years we’ve won the LMP2 class at Le Mans twice, the Japanese Super GT Championship twice and in 2014 we are leading the Super GT Championship and again supply more than a quarter of the entire 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours field with Nissan engines.

“NISMO has always been hard linked into the PlayStation generation – children who go on to be passionate about cars after learning about them in the digital word. Now we take that one step further by taking some of those passionate fans and making them into racing drivers through GT Academy.

“We are appealing to the emotional side of new buyers, who get the connection between NISMO on track and Nissan the brand. People like GT Academy winner Lucas Ordonez with two podiums finishes at Le Mans really helps bring that message home.

“You can now make a connection between something you can aspire to be – entering GT Academy on your PlayStation to driving a Nissan NISMO on the road or even perhaps potentially being a driver in LM P1.

“Nissan makes this dream available to everyone and that’s why, I think the whole idea of being part of Le Mans is really part of this magical golden thread of DNA that allows for all of this to be connected together.

“Nissan the brand – combined with NISMO whose job for more than 30 years is to make motorsport accessible – joining them together allows us to take our messaging throughout the world.

“And last but not least, we’re also motorsport enthusiasts. So of course when you love something it means that you can go out and have the passion to do it really, really well and leave a mark on history.”

What innovations will we see from Nissan in the LMP1 program?

“Nissan is a company which is about innovation and excitement for everyone and there is no better way to demonstrate this than at Le Mans.

“To win at Le Mans you have to be innovative, motor racing by its very nature is very exciting and our view at Nissan about Le Mans is that it is all about the crowd and the fans – watching trackside or following on TV or via social media throughout the world.

“Le Mans is interesting to us because of the change in LMP1 regulations. It becomes particularly relevant in 2015, which is why we’ve decided to come back and be a part of Le Mans in the premier class. And it’s interesting because it rewards energy efficiency, it rewards the brave and it rewards companies that hopefully behave like Nissan.

“LMP1 is not just an arms race – all our rivals in the class have taken different technical approaches and we will be doing the same.

“Our technical solution isn’t there just to compete. We’re not going to go to Le Mans to compete in this historic race with the intention of just turning up and making a nice marketing sideshow. Our intention is to win.

“We want to be the bad boys. In taking this route we want to be able to use the assets of our company, because again, we want to appeal to the NISMO generation, which has been brought up with the GT Academy and recognizes NISMO as road cars and racecars.

“We want to excite the customers in a way which is consistent with the way that we see the world. Nissan is the world leader in global electric cars and we pioneered the electric car with vehicles like the LEAF. We believe that our knowledge and our experience of electrification, knowledge of the battery and the electric car – this technical advantage gives us solutions to win Le Mans.”

How will this year’s Nissan ZEOD RC program help next year’s LMP1 program?

“We can look at this year’s race with the Nissan ZEOD RC in its own context as the world’s fastest ever electric race car. We are attempting to do an entire lap of Circuit de la Sarthe under electric power – a world first.

“It takes the electrification of the motor vehicle to the next level. Our competitors Porsche, Audi and Toyota are all running hybrid cars but the ZEOD RC is a real showcase in Nissan’s leadership in electric vehicles.

“Everywhere around the world people will recognize that Le Mans is the toughest endurance race in the world and if you can show the technical prowess to take an electric car to the circuit and compete in a 24 hour race, then you are demonstrating the benefit and the confidence in electric vehicles.

“Some of these learnings from the Nissan ZEOD RC will then follow forward into our entry into LM P1 in 2015.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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