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PRUETT: Inside the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO LMP1 program
The brief walk from the reception area at Dan Gurney’s All American Racers to the race shop demanded a quick mental recalibration. By the end of my visit to AAR in late September, a full cranial reboot was in order, and once again, racecar designer Ben Bowlby was to blame.
I was there privately two days after the World Endurance Championship event at Circuit of The Americas where Audi, Porsche, and Toyota battled each other with their cutting-edge LMP1 hybrids. Nissan’s new-for-2015 LMP1 machine had been the source of immense speculation since the program was announced in June at Le Mans, and during my first dozen steps inside AAR, the reality of what Bowlby and his mad cast of characters came up with foreshadowed the revelations that would fill the rest of my visit.
Leaving the reception room, we passed through a door, turned right, headed for another door, and during those 30-odd steps, something odd caught my eye. Composite specialists were working on a chassis mold for the Nissan’s floor – the bottom piece of the carbon-fiber tub where the driver sits, yet it contained a strange, tube-like indent from front to back. Could it be for a driveshaft? Why would a rear-engined prototype need to run a driveshaft to the front of the…Oh, wait.
From the first building, we walked across the courtyard that connects the different units which house everything from AAR’s truly secret activities to the rolling dynamometer Dan uses for his line of Alligator motorcycles. Through the roll-up door and past the workbench-shrine preserved in honor of the late Phil Remington, we made a final left into the shop where the Nissan-powered DeltaWing was created. On my last visit to AAR, the room was empty. This time, it was a blur of bodies in motion.
Dan’s son Justin Gurney greeted us just as I spotted a familiar face from the IndyCar paddock – someone who left a front-running team weeks earlier when the season drew to a close. As I’d learn in the ensuing months, most of the team would be filled by friends, former colleagues, and regulars from American open-wheel and sports car racing.
Curling our way up the spiral stairs to the makeshift engineering office, we were greeted by Simon Marshall who, as a renowned designer in his own right, forms a powerful creative think-tank with Bowlby and Zach Eakin [BELOW, Bowlby on right]. Sitting at a conference table in relatively tight confines, Marshall opened a poster tube and removed large, 3D renderings of the car, unrolling them in dramatic fashion while watching our reaction. My first question wasn’t about the car – I wanted to know about the poster tube which bore the name of a commercial printing company.
Yes, the top-secret, kill-on-sight Nissan LMP1 renderings had been sent, seen, and printed by an unsuspecting clerk in Southern California without the images making it onto Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Forget spy shots; the GT-R LM NISMO was hiding, for a brief period, in plain sight outside the confines of AAR.
The blood-red car shown from overhead in the first rendering answered the most obvious question: The tub did indeed need a driveshaft running down the middle because with the long hood and exhausts exiting atop the car – ahead of the windshield – it was clear Bowlby had gone for a front-engine layout.
- Nissan LMP1 tech talk with Ben Bowlby
- Q&A with Nissan's Darren Cox
- GT-R LM NISMO intro video
- Nissan's Super Bowl commercial
- Marc Gene joins the GT-R LM NISMO program
Click on the thumbnails below for larger images:
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