Only ten months after the stunningly unorthodox Nissan GT-R Le Mans racing program was revealed in a dramatic Superbowl commercial, the company has pulled the plug on the project. Despite the shock of its backwards-seeming front-engine, front-drive layout, the team was never able to get the race car to exploit what its designer insisted were advantages of the configuration.
In a world of indistinguishable me-too solutions, the GT-R LM was daringly different. Its approach drove critics to hysterics, deriding the effort as a joke. Sadly, the car's insufficient development produced performance that seemed to bear the critics out. But we'll never know whether this crazy design could have worked, because Nissan fired its motor sports boss and then killed the program he led before they could sort out its myriad challenges.
In Nissan's statement announcing its withdrawal from the company explained, "Nissan entered LMP1 in the 2015 season with an innovative new, and bold concept, with the ambition to compete at the front of the field. The teams worked diligently to bring the vehicles up to the desired performance levels. However, the company concluded that the program would not be able to reach its ambitions and decided to focus on developing its longer term racing strategies."
In its premature rush to reach Le Man in 2015, the team fielded a car without the electric motor driving its rear wheels to provide more boost and all-wheel drive. Then when the overloaded front drive system couldn't handle the load, the team deactivated the hybrid electric assist for the gasoline engine driving the front wheels, slowing the car even more. The result was a disastrously slow debut.
Nevertheless, the team and its drivers believed in the car's potential. "Its a shame to see so many hours of labour go to waste," tweeted the team's English driver, Max Chilton. Certainly, it is unfortunate to see such a wildly ambitious concept go away with its nose bloodied.
Hey, at least I got to sit in it.