Nissan returned to its storied sport car racing roots this past weekend with the fielding of a brand new LMP2 prototype at the 12 Hours of Sebring. The entry marks the first time a Nissan-powered racecar has been on track since the mid-1990s. But wait, there’s more! The team earned an impressive second place class finish with Spanish gamer-turned-legitimate-racer Lucas Ordoñez behind the wheel for part of the gruling 12 hour trial.
Although the team qualified three seconds ahead of any class competitor, two major gearbox malfunctions hindered the team’s chances at garnering a first place trophy.
With Ordoñez behind the wheel on lap 78, the gearbox ran into its first set of problems, and cost the team 15 laps, not to mention crucial time. Seven hours into the battle, Nissan’s trio of drivers began picking off LMP2 cars pestered by severe longevity issues. The team quickly moved into the lead.
At 9 hours/38 minutes, things changed for the worse, yet again. With a five lap lead, the hastily rebuilt transmission reared its ugly head for the final time and cost Nissan a critical first place spot. The highly experienced drivers couldn’t recover and eventually finished in a very commendable 2nd place after the very reliable Level 5 Motorsports Lola Honda.
Nissan’s racing revival is being assisted by French outfit, Signature Group. Together they’re known as Signatech Racing and have committed to a two year partnership. Sebring is only one of seven stops the new race team will make on the newly formed Intercontinental Le Mans Cup calendar. The famous 24 Hours of Le Mans, 1000 Km of Spa-Francorchamps, and the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta are on the docket as well.
Nissan’s two go-fast divisions, Nismo and Nissan Performance, have been intimately involved in the project and are responsible for the prototype’s VK-series 3.4-liter V-8 engine, among other custom components. No word on specifics, but the mill is a close relative to the 5.6-liter VK56DE used in the FIA GT1 GT-R racecars, not to the mention road going Titan, Armada, and Pathfinder.
The 25-year old Ordoñez gained international celebrity by successfully progressing from Gran Turismo gamer to successful racer in just two years time. He shared the cockpit with two highly experienced Frenchmen, open-wheel racer Soheil Ayari and Formula 3 and Le Mans Series driver Franck Mailleux.