Jalopnik.com got the Nissan NISMO GT-R LMP1-H images.
NOW, LET'S DISCUSS HOW a Front-Wheel-Drive, Front-Engine, +1000 HP, +200MPH, Pure-Bred, Radical-Design, Big Front Tire / Smaller Rear Tire, Hybrid racecar will actually DRIVE.
GOOD NEWS. IT'LL BE A RACING EXPERT, NOT ME, TELLING YOU.
To get the proper input / understanding, we chatted with Jeremy Dale, veteran sports car racer, race winner, Daytona 24hr Class Champion, and ChampCar / IMSA Team Leader.
Dale is also one the last North American Nissan factory racers that drove some of the last [1990-92] IMSA heavy-hitter racecars from the brand -
The 800hp / 800 lb ft of torque V6TT, front-engine 300ZX GTO......
And the 800hp +200mph V8TT Nissan R90CK Group C / GTP.
But hey, I just raced a 98hp FWD Fiat 500, so I too know WTF I'm talking about here!! [??!!].
SOME GT-R LMP1-H KNOWNS AND UNKNOWNS?
We know all the obvious stuff. We don't know -
HOW the electric power will be distributed - Rear wheels, front wheels, all-wheels? WHAT type of energy recapture is used - Battery, SuperCapacitor, Flywheel? WHERE weight distribution really is - Front-biased, 50/ 50? HOW MUCH front wheel drive vs 4 wheel drive?
The answers will influence the driving dynamics, but we know enough to guess smart.
OK, HOW WILL THE NISSAN NISMO GT-R LMP1-H DRIVE?
1] Braking will be the first skill influenced by the car's design.
* Jeremy Dale thinks the GT-R LMP1-H design makes braking one of the biggest driving question marks.
* But, logic says it'll have to be good brakes if the car really is built for a V-Max advantage vs competition - To save the Nissan drivers' ass at the end of those +240mph Mulsanne blasts!
* To protect the lead this GT-R will gain for itself from those Le Mans 'drag races', by preventing brake-zone overtakes.
* And to not give back lap time while braking.
* But, 'brake feel' could be a GT-R LMP1-H issue, with so many things being asked of the front tires. And with smaller tires in the rear.
* 1] Every LMP1 racer and every Downforce Driver says the same thing, "Max pressure when you 1st hit the brake pedal - 1200 to 1800 lbs of 'bury-the-pedal' force. Then, as aero loads decrease, you bleed off pedal pressure to feel / control tire lock and weight shift".
* 2] Every modern-generation Energy Recapture racer [F1 and WEC LMP1] knows energy harvesting is used to slow the car in complement to the mechanical brakes [eg; the re-gen system acts like engine braking]. And harvesting can effect braking feel for the driver.
* 3] With 'everything' going on up front in this Nissan [front ICE engine, front drive wheels, big front tires, aero and weight loads, etc.], one has to assume that - a] Braking is a critical GT-R LMP1-H design imperative, b] Those massive front Michelins are going to be put to use stopping AND harvesting.
* 1]+2]+3] all add up to effecting this GT-R's brake feel and performance.
* UPDATE - From MulsanneCorner. And the subject IS BRAKING - Getting the mechanical brakes and KERS to work properly to provide the necessary stopping peformance, not just energy harvesting. And Nissan tells us that's the focus of the next phase of testing.
* Jeremy is one of those racers that believes 'All the important stuff to going fast happens when the racer works the brake pedal'. Where to brake? How hard to brake? How long? When to get off the pedal? Where? How? AND how capable is the car to do all that stuff?
* Slow In / Fast Out is a good lap-time-saving starting point..... BUT, staying on the gas longer, compressing the brake function to its maximum efficiency, carrying the most mid-corner speed, and getting the car transitioned to throttle.... is where the pros are better than you and me.
* So, even IF this car is all about top speed to obliterate Audi, Porsche, and Toyota in a straight line, you still don't want to waste lap-time and give up that advantage by fumbling around in the brake-zone. GT-R LMP1-H will need to be good on brakes.
* Jeremy also opened our eyes to something called 'Bias Migration' - How the front-to-rear balance changes IN the brake zone. The % shifts are small these days - eg; 51% f / 49% r at the beginning to 52% / 48% at braking max. But, like a good pick-up line in a bar, 'less is more' with bias migration, too.
* GT-R LMP1-H won't ignore migration. The car will likely be stiffly suspended to minimize weight shift, the distribution will be close to balanced, the weight of the driver / cockpit simply swapping positions with the weight of the engine. The front tires are sized that way for a reason.
* Bottom line? Everyone is waiting to see if the Nissan NISMO GT-R LMP1-H you see Super Bowl Sunday will stop and feel like a race car, with stability, strength, and balance.
* UPDATE - The Nissan Super Bowl ad.
* Oh yeah, one other thing. Modern braking and race car tech has brake zones compressing more than ever. Jeremy notes how F1'ers brake all the way down to the apex, now. It will be interesting to see if the GT-R LMP1-H design allows the car to do THAT.
2] This GT-R, like the road car, will have a similar feel Turning Into The Corner.
* Which way too many of you carboys define as lacking 'sensitivity' and 'liveliness'. It may be true for the GT-R race car, too.
* Jeremy and I think the following - A mid-engine downforce race car is very immediate turning in. Watch an F1 car snap into a corner. GT-R LMP1-H won't be that car.
* Dale reflected on the front-engine Nissan GTO car he raced. He thinks both his old car and this new Nissan will show the driver a moment of 'delay' on turn-in. Maybe as a function of more forward weight distribution.
* But, this GT-R will not be a snow-plow. It may just have to 'ease' it's way to the apex.
* But, that may not be sacrificing lap time.
3] Mid-Corner may or may NOT be an issue AND it may not matter.
* GT-R LMP1-H may be the modern equivalent of every big HP race car of the 1960's / 70's - Blast down the straights, get the car stopped, wait for the car through the corner, step on the gas, and repeat. WTF? That's not good for 21st century racing! But it is, IF......
* ......GT-R LMP1-H is blowing by cars on the Le Mans straight the same way Nissan favorite endorser and Olympic sprinter - Usain Bolt blows by his 1oo and 200 meter competition.
* Who cares about mid-corner skills if GT-R LMP1-H is crushing 'em on the straights?
* Jeremy Dale, who ran the Skip Barber Pro Series when it was a big driver development big deal for kids wanting to make it into the major leagues, reminded me that some racing schools still teach, "To go fast you are either ON the gas or ON the brake, no coasting".
* Well, that's no longer true. Many modern cars need a [brief] moment of transition to be fast [eg; Porsche 911 GT3 / GTD America and IndyCars]. Plus, energy recapture tech / energy mgt. rules [eg; WEC and F1] 'require' coasting.
* So, IF this GT-R is a Mulsanne top-fuel dragster, IF the car's whole configuration is challenging on brakes and lazy on turn-in..... The GT-R LMP1-H driver coaching may be as simple as, "Just deal with the mid-corner 'mess' and relax. No one can touch you on the straights or get near you in the brake zone. And BTW, you're leading the friggin' race! So, just shut up and drive the thing."
4] GT-R LMP1-H will power out of the corner. What else would a GT-R do?
* The rumormill says 2000HP. It's 4-figures for sure. So, the smart-ass answer is GT-R power-down out of the corner HAS to be brilliant. Otherwise why build-in so much horsepower?
* Jeremy Dale thinks putting 450-500hp down on the road is the limit that current mechanical technology and physics allow. Above that number, either driving dynamics get compromised OR electronic assists are going to be needed to 'flight control' cars like this GT-R LMP1-H.
* So, the HAL9000 computers will manage GT-R's ICE and electric power mix, its FWD torque vectoring, 4WD power distribution via electronic differentials and whatever to make it driveable.
* Having said all that, Jeremy and I expect there will be a FWD / Big Horsepower factor that will tell the driver the fastest way / the fastest line will be to unwind the steering wheel [and front wheels] as soon as possible to get the power down.
* Opening the hands will open up the speed of the GT-R LMP1-H.
SUMMARY - PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER.
Whatever the Nissan NISMO GT-R LMP1-H turns out to be, it's pretty easy to make a few driving assumptions -
* Like Delta Wing and ZEOD before it, low-drag and V-Max will be key strengths of this car.
* The technology will make it drive as a race car needs to drive.
* The to-the-rear cockpit position will influence visibility and driving perspectives.
* The weight of the car / distribution will greatly influence how 'alive' the car feels in cornering.
* Physics says the heavy end of the car will always lead the car. So.....
* The amount of front wheel drive vs rear will effect how the driver deals with cornering physics.
* And WINNING forgives ALL - Technical weirdness and driving anomolies, included.
THE BIG PICTURE.
Nissan has launched a new global corporate tagline - "Innovation That Excites".
GT-R is the best known and most globally-revered brand in the Nissan line-up.
GT-R LMP1-H plays off the equity of 'Godzilla' and is definitely bringing 'Exciting Innovation' to the sports car racing world.
So, unless Nissan truly is trading marketing buzz for actual performance by doing this radical racing batmobile, you got to hope and believe the Nissan NISMO GT-R LMP1-H will be a great race car to drive. And a real Le Mans fighter.
We'll all know soon enough.