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GT-R LMP1-H Changes Everything You Think You Know About Racing

Illustration for article titled GT-R LMP1-H Changes Everything You Think You Know About Racing

I gave a speech to the august Madison Avenue Sports Car Driving and Chowder Society in NYC on February 10, 2015. Turns out ‘a few people’ liked it.

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The crux of the talk - “IF RACING, THANKS TO THIS CAR, IS SEEN AS STRETCHING THE IMAGINATION, PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES OF ENGINEERING, AND PUTTING RELEVANT TECHNOLOGY TO WORK TO MAKE BETTER CARS [NOT JUST BETTER EXOTIC SPORTS CARS]…….. RACING WINS.

“THE SPORT GOES BACK TO WHERE IT WAS WHEN HENRY FORD 1ST RACED TO VALIDATE HIS COMPANY, WHEN MANUFACTURERS TOOK THEIR CARS TO INDY, LE MANS, AND OTHER RACES TO PROVE THEMSELVES.

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“WHEN THE SPORT WAS AUTHENTIC AND HAD INTEGRITY OF PURPOSE.

“NISSAN IS DOING ALL THAT. SURE, THEY’RE BEING DIFFERENT TO ‘SELFISHLY’ GET ATTENTION FOR THEMSELVES. AND, YES THE DAMN THING HAS TO PERFORM……

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“BUT, I WANT RACING TO ENCOURAGE SUCH DIFFERENCE-MAKING RISK-TAKING ENERGIES. AND CREATE AUTO RACING BUZZ BEYOND “WE’VE GOT A NEW PLAYOFF FORMAT TO CROWN A NASCAR CHAMPION.”

Here’s the entire speech -

Illustration for article titled GT-R LMP1-H Changes Everything You Think You Know About Racing
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“I AM NOT THE ORIGINAL SPEAKER. THAT GUY BACKED OUT.

NOW, I’M NOT SAYING WHO. BUT ON MY WAY HERE, THE CAB IN FRONT OF ME TOOK AN RPG. NO WAIT! IT WAS MY CAB THAT TOOK THE MISSILE!

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ANYWAY………..

THANK YOU FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE HERE. THANK YOU, CHOWDER SOCIETY AND THANK YOU, GUESTS.

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TODAY’S TOPIC IS - THE FRONT-ENGINE FRONT-WHEEL-DRIVE 4WD NISSAN NISMO GT-R LMP1-HYBRID LE MANS RACE CAR.

THIS CAR. CUE THE VIDEO, PLEASE.

AS I SAID, THE SUBJECT OF TODAY’S TALK IS - THIS CAR.…… BUT, THE REAL TOPIC IS HOW THIS NISSAN COULD UNSETTLE EVERYTHING YOU THINK YOU KNOW ABOUT RACING.

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AND NOT JUST RACE CAR DESIGN THINKING.

THIS GT-R IS A LITMUS TEST OF RACING ATTITUDES AND INTENTIONS – FOR FANS, MANUFACTURERS, RACING SERIES LEADERS, AND EVEN SPONSORS.

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THIS CAR CHALLENGES EVERYTHING THE SAME WAY GODZILLA STOMPS THROUGH TOKYO –

  • How to strategize a race like Le Mans to win it
  • How to drive a car to go fast – the physical technics and inputs
  • What you like about racing
  • The reasons you follow racing
  • Who’s a racing fan
  • How to make racing popular…….MAYBE EVEN MORE POPULAR.

YOUR CHOICE TO LIKE OR HATE - OR EVEN BE BORED BY - THIS CAR TELLS SO MUCH ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT RACING AND WHAT YOU THINK RACING SHOULD BE.

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AND SINCE THIS CAR IS SO DIFFERENT, LET’S START TODAY’S TALK DIFFERENT, TOO.

LET’S MAKE TODAY A BIT MORE INTERACTIVE WITH YOU GUYS. STARTING RIGHT NOW.

SHOW OF HANDS ON THE FOLLOWING -

  • How many of you know of this car already?
  • How many of you like this car?
  • How many like the way it looks?
  • How many know what’s under the skin?

SO THAT’S KINDA NOT SURPRISING AS THE CAR WAS PART OF NISSAN’S SUPER BOWL AD.

THAT 114MM PEOPLE SAW.

AND SAW ON THE INTERNET. 18MM PEOPLE AND COUNTING WATCHED THE YOUTUBE VIDEO OF THE COMMERCIAL. 18MM!

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THAT’S MORE PEOPLE THAN THE TOTAL # OF PEOPLE THAT WATCHED ALL THE IMSA TUDOR CHAMPIONSHIP RACING ON TV AND THE INTERNET IN ALL 2014!

NOW, I’M NOT GOING TO SHOW YOU THE AD.

  • Yes, it shows the car. But, it kinda tells you nothing about it.
  • The car’s just part of a story about a racecar driver that apparently crashes his way up through the ranks into a factory LMP1 ride.
  • He’s a guy that puts his racing passion ahead of his family.
  • AND he looks suspiciously like Patrick Dempsey! Which in itself is awkward, because Patrick races for Porsche, and is of pending divorce [maybe because of his racing], and who in the ratio of ‘I can bang anything’ looks vs racing talent……… [make balancing scales hand gestures].
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WELL, IGNORE ALL THAT! BECAUSE, THANKS TO THE AD, A LOT OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU KNOW THERE IS SOMETHING ‘NISSAN’ COMING.

OK, SO WITH YOUR SHOW OF HANDS WE NOW HAVE A BASELINE OF GT-R LMP1-H AWARENESS FROM YOU.

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LET’S ALSO ESTABLISH A BASELINE OF KNOWLEDGE ON THE TECHNICAL UNIQUENESS OF THE NISSAN NISMO GT-R LMP1-HYBRID.

THE FIRST THING EVERYONE SEES IS FRONT ENGINE.

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Illustration for article titled GT-R LMP1-H Changes Everything You Think You Know About Racing

THEN, THEY SEE THE TIRES 14” WIDE IN FRONT, ONLY 9” IN REAR AND NOW I’M LOOKING AT A FWD RACE CAR.

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OMFFFG. HOW THE HELL IS THIS THING GONNA BEAT AUDI, PORSCHE, AND TOYOTA?

HOLD ON. THE SPECS GET EVEN MORE WEIRD.

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BUT, LET’S START BY ACKNOWEDGING, WHAT THIS CAR IS NOT

  • It’s not a 427 Cobra -Even though the engine is set behind the front axle
  • It’s not the 1980’s Mustang GTP - even though it’s front-engine, turbo, and a downforce monster.
  • Not a Porsche 917LH - Even though it too is built for low drag and v-max on the Mulsannes.
  • And it’s not a Panoz P1 car - Even though it’s carbon-tubbed and front mid-engine.
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Illustration for article titled GT-R LMP1-H Changes Everything You Think You Know About Racing

AND IT’S TOTALLY NOT THE OLD CHRYSLER ‘PATRIOT’ RACE CAR CONCEPT – EVEN THOUGH BOTH HAVE FLYWHEEL ENERGY RECAPTURE. NOPE.

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Illustration for article titled GT-R LMP1-H Changes Everything You Think You Know About Racing

THIS GT-R LMP1-H IS ITS OWN ANIMAL. FROM THE DESIGN MIND OF BEN BOWLBY WHO STARTED WITH GANASSI, THEN PANOZ, AND FINALLY NISSAN, TO INVENT THE DELTAWING.

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Illustration for article titled GT-R LMP1-H Changes Everything You Think You Know About Racing
Illustration for article titled GT-R LMP1-H Changes Everything You Think You Know About Racing
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AND THEN, THE ALL-ELECTRIC ZEOD RC.

BOTH WHICH WERE DRIVEN BY CONCEPTS OF LOW DRAG, EFFICIENT DOWNFORCE, AND POWER EFFICIENCY THAT LED TO THE GT-R LMP1-H.

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SO, WHAT HAVE WE GOT SPEC-WISE WITH THE GT-R LMP1-H?

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WELL, PER MY CONVERSATIONS WITH DARREN COX, GLOBAL MOTORSPORT DIRECTOR FOR NISSAN NISMO…..

  • Being front-engine like the road car GT-R is NOT the main reason for the design.
  • AERODYNAMICS, LOW-DRAG and A BIG TOP-END V-MAX are the prime motivators.
  • [Explain LMP1 Rules, front wings, front grip realities that led Bowlby’s thinking.]
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Illustration for article titled GT-R LMP1-H Changes Everything You Think You Know About Racing
Illustration for article titled GT-R LMP1-H Changes Everything You Think You Know About Racing
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  • [Explain GT-R diffuser evacuation design, flow-through tunnels, low-drag.]
Illustration for article titled GT-R LMP1-H Changes Everything You Think You Know About Racing
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WITH THE EMPHASIS ON FRONT DOWNFORCE, BEN BOWLBY DECIDED TO PUT THE WEIGHT OF THE CAR UP FRONT. SO, MOST OF THE MECHANICALS CAME UP FRONT.

DISTRIBUTION SHIFTED TO 65/35 F/R.

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THERE’S AN ENGINE AND TRANSAXLE UP THERE, AS A STRESSED MEMBER HOLDING THE SUSPENSION. LIKE A MID-ENGINE CAR, JUST POINTING THE WRONG DIRECTION ON THE WRONG END OF THE CAR. NOW, WITH STEERING!!

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SO, THE BACK END IS FREED UP TO RUN NARROWER TIRES, ALLOWING FOR BIGGER DOWNFORCE TUNNELS UNDER THE CAR.

THE GAS-FUELED 3L TWIN TURBO V6 IS BUILT FOR EFFICIENCY AND IS GOOD FOR 550HP.

HYBRID POWER WILL COME FROM 1 OR 2 FLYWHEEL SYSTEMS AND TIP IN ANOTHER 700HP WHICH, BASED ON A VERY COMPLEX SET OF FIA APPENDIX B EFFICIENCY RULES, CAN BE USED ANYWHERE ON TRACK AS LONG AS THE CAR MEETS ITS FIA ‘BRAKE SPECIFIC FUEL CONSUMPTION’ (BSFC) TARGETS. DON’T MAKE ME TRY TO EXPLAIN!

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THE FLYWHEELS WILL HARVEST ENERGY IN BRAKING FROM THE FRONT WHEELS.

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW YET ARE THE FOLLOWING –

  • 2, 4, 6, or 8 Megajoules of hybrid power. Every team has the same options.
  • And while more Megajoules is supposed to mean more power - ergo more speed - There are pros and cons to building the bigger hybrid systems.
  • Which is why consistent Le Mans winner Audi was at 2 for 2014, Toyota 4 or 6 - maybe 8 in 2015, and Porsche’s pushing 8.
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WE ALSO DON’T KNOW -

  • Which end of the GT-R LMP1-H will deliver the hybrid power. FWD logic says some of the 700HP is going to the rear.
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AND WE ARE ALL GUESSING ABOUT IS HOW THIS THING WILL DRIVE AND RACE -

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PS - DARREN COX SAYS - As for your article, you may not be far off there.”

AND IF I UNDERSTAND WHAT NISSAN SAYS ARE THE STRENGTHS OF THIS CAR. IT WILL WIN AT LE MANS BY BEING HYPER-FAST WITH TOP SPEEDS AND MEGA-EFFICIENT WITH FUEL.

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IT MAY NOT BE THE FASTEST LE MANS CAR, BUT IT WELL COULD GO FARTHER IN 24 HOURS.

STILL, IT WILL HAVE TO OVERCOME IT’S APPARENT TECHNICAL COMPLEXITY, VALIDATE IT’S NEW DESIGN, AND HAVE THE DURABILITY TO FINISH.

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DARREN COX SAYS YEAR 1 OBJECTIVE IS TO BE “Competitive, credible, and in the mix on pace at Le Mans”.

PLUS, DRIVE HOME THE ‘INNOVATION THAT EXCITES’ MANTRA THAT IS NISSAN’S BRAND CAMPAIGN - FOR THEIR FANS, OWNERS, DEALERS, AND EMPLOYEES. THE CAR IS INTENDED TO INSPIRE AND MOTIVATE THEM ALL.

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YEAR 2 IS TO FIGHT FOR THE PODIUM.

AND AS DARREN COX ALSO SHARED -

  • “We have to live our Brand – Many companies have a strapline or brand messaging pyramid – But, what’s the point unless you live it. It needs physical evidence or it’s irrelevant for consumers.”
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ACTUALLY, I POSED 5 QUESTIONS TO DARREN COX. LET ME QUOTE HIS ANSWERS TO YOU.

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LET’S GET BACK TO THE GAME-CHANGING ISSUES THIS CAR BRINGS TO THE TABLE REGARDING THE FUNDAMENTAL FLAWS OF MOTORSPORT THESE DAYS.

AND YOUR THOUGHTS. SHOW OF HANDS OR JUST SHOUT OUT YOUR ANSWERS, PLEASE.

  • Why do you like racing? - The drivers, the cars, ‘the show’?
  • What should racing be? - Relevant tech, high-tech, or just entertainment?
  • Who are racing fans? - Old people, young, tech-lovers, excitement fans, sports fans?
  • How can racing be made more popular? - Or is racing forever a niche passion?

GOOD ANSWERS. NOW, HERE’S A LITTLE BIT OF MY INPUT.

I THINK MOST RACING, WITH ITS PREOCCUPATION WITH ‘THE SHOW’ VS TECHNICAL RELEVANCE TO THE REAL WORLD - WITH SPEC RULES THAT MAKE RACE CARS BORING.....

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.....HAS CREATED A PERCEPTION OF MOTORSPORT THAT NO LONGER HAS MASS-MARKET ACCEPTANCE, LET ALONE INTEREST.

RACING, WHICH USED TO BE AN EXTREME SPORT UP THERE WITH BULL-FIGHTING, IS NOW SEEN AS BORING VS TODAY’S DEFINITION OF EXTREME.

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AND YES, THE MEDIA HELPS MAKE IT FEEL LIKE YOU GOTTA BE AN INSIDER TO WATCH RACING, LET ALONE LOVE IT. AND THAT SCARES PEOPLE OFF.

PLUS, DON’T GET ME STARTED ON HOW THE BUSINESS WORLD SEES RACING!

IN IT’S PRESENT FROM, THE MASS MAJORITY OF PEOPLE SEE AUTO RACING FANS AS LOVING AND LIVING IN THEIR OWN LITTLE BUBBLE.

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THEN, TRADITIONAL FANS WANT TO STILL DEFINE RACECARS AS ‘V8, V12, BIG NOISE AND 3 PEDALS’. AND OF COURSE, ‘HYBRIDS ARE FOR PUSSIES’.

  • I just saw a ‘car show’ video where ‘the journalists’ were debating if racing should be about efficiency. WTF! I’ts always been about efficiency......and light-weight and ekeing out more power and / or distance per tank of fuel. Come on!
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‘THE KIDS’ TODAY THINK PROFESSIONAL SERIES RACE CARS ARE LESS INTERESTING THAN THOSE HOME-BUILT TUNER CARS AND DRIFT-MACHINES THEY GOOGLE SEARCH.

AND THE PRO RACE CARS OFTEN GET DUMBED DOWN FROM THEIR ROAD CAR VERSIONS IN HORSEPOWER AND TECHNOLOGY BY SERIES RACING RULES.

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NASCAR ARE ‘MIKE HUCKABEE-SIMPLE-AMERICA’ CARS THAT STILL HAVE LESS IN COMMON WITH THEIR STREET NAMESAKES.

F1, MARKETED AS THE SPORT’S PINNACLE.....IS NOW KNOWN TO THE WORLD AS SLOWER, QUIETER, TOO EXPENSIVE, RUN BY A CROOK, AND RACED BY DILITANTE OWNERS.

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SO, IN THIS ENVIRONMENT AND PERCEPTION LANDSCAPE ALONG COMES THE NISSAN NISMO GT-R LMP1-H.

  • It’s a GT-R, an iconic brand with the kids playing off popularity and creating connection.
  • It looks like nothing else and that creates its own vibe.
  • It’s innovative, rules-bending, counter-establishment, and entrepernuerial.
  • AND it makes ‘The Car The Star’ - Not the driver, not ‘The Show’.
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JUST RECALL WE’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE. CHAPARRAL 2J, LOTUS GROUND-EFFECTS, STP TURBINE, COOPER-CLIMAX GP CAR.

AND EACH TIME, THOSE RACE CARS AND RACING REACHED OUT BEYOND THE GEARHEAD DISCIPLES AND INTO THE UNWASHED MASSES OF NON-RACING FANS.

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WHAT THE PUBLIC SAW, HEARD, AND READ ABOUT WAS INNOVATION, CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY, AND ‘ON- THE-EDGE’ DARING.

IT WAS EXCITING AND IT WAS GOOD.

UNTIL THOSE CARS GOT CUT DOWN BY THE RACING ESTABLISHMENT FEAR-MONGERERS!

AS DARREN COX STATED, THIS CAR CAN BE ‘INSPIRATIONAL’ AND ‘MOTIVATIONAL’.

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SO, WHILE THOSE NARROW-MINDCAST RACE FANS DISS THE NISSAN NISMO GT-R LMP1-H BECAUSE IT’S UGLY. OR DIFFERENT.

AND THEY ‘EXPERTLY’ DEBATE HOW THE HELL FWD CAN DELIVER 1000 PLUS HORSE-POWER…… THINK ABOUT THIS……..

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IF RACING, THANKS TO THIS CAR, IS SEEN AS STRETCHING THE IMAGINATION, PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES OF ENGINEERING, AND PUTTING RELEVANT TECHNOLOGY TO WORK TO MAKE BETTER CARS [NOT JUST BETTER SPORTS CARS SUPERCARS, AND HYPERCARS]……..

RACING WINS.

THE SPORT GOES BACK TO WHERE IT WAS WHEN HENRY FORD 1ST RACED TO VALIDATE HIS COMPANY, WHEN MANUFACTURERS TOOK THEIR CARS TO INDY, LE MANS, AND OTHER RACES TO PROVE THEMSELVES.

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WHEN THE SPORT WAS AUTHENTIC AND HAD INTEGRITY OF PURPOSE.

NISSAN IS DOING ALL THAT. SURE, THEY’RE BEING DIFFERENT TO GET ATTENTION.

AND, YES THE DAMN THING HAS TO PERFORM……

BUT, I WANT RACING TO ENCOURAGE SUCH ENERGIES. AND CREATE BUZZ BEYOND “WE’VE GOT A NEW PLAYOFF FORMAT TO CROWN A NASCAR CHAMPION”.

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OK, QUESTIONS? COMMENTS?”

[GT-R photo credits - Nissan, Racer, Marshall Pruett]

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