Nissan GT-R LM Nismo is FWD for Now, Headed to Le Mans

CHICAGO – The Nissan GT-R LM Nismo “show car” made its live debut here at the 2015 Chicago auto show — after a sneak peek in a Super Bowl XLIX commercial — while the actual front-engine, front-wheel-drive race car is in Florida for testing. Its powertrain consists of a “relatively low-power” Nissan VRX 30A Nismo 3.0-liter, twin-turbo, direct-injected V-6 and a hybrid system that recovers energy from the front wheels to augment the gasoline engine.

Nissan isn’t releasing power or torque estimates yet, but reports suggest at least 1,250 horsepower will be on tap. The cab-rearward, LMP1-h class race car is 182.9 inches long and 40.6 inches tall, and it reportedly weighs 1,940 pounds to meet regulations. While the GT-R LM Nismo remains front-wheel drive for the time being, Nissan says it reserves the right to power the rear wheels with the hybrid system. That may or may not happen during the upcoming FIA World Endurance Championship season, where the car will campaign. The WEC season begins April 12 at Silverstone in England and Nissan is aiming to conquer the crown jewel of the series — the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans — in the car, where it will take on the likes of the mighty Audi R18 and others.

Whatever the unusual FWD race car configuration does when the loud pedal is deployed at the start or exiting a corner may not matter to the driver Nismo announced at the Chicago show, Jann Mardenborough, 23, of Darlington, England,. He earned his racing props by winning season three of “GT Academy” in June 2011. Like several of the the GT Academy drivers before him, Mardenborough has since had much success in actual race cars, including 370Zs and GT3-spec GT-Rs.

In the meantime, Nissan’s Nismo Business Office, which builds the street cars, will use auto shows to gauge reaction to its modified 370Z Roadster, which has the same body kit based on the roadgoing GT-R and the same suspension mods and 350-horsepower tuned engine as in the 370Z Nismo coupe.

Though the setup is virtually the same, the two 370Z Nismos have different missions. The coupe chases the “performance seeker” customers, says Nismo chief product specialist Hiroshi Tamura, while the Roadster is aimed at the “high life” customer. That’s why the Nismo Roadster truly hasn’t been approved for production yet. If showgoers and journalists don’t react favorably, Nismo won’t build it, Tamura says.