Le Mans, and the future of Nissan’s front-drive WEC racer - evo speaks with Nissan's Darren Cox - page 2
evo talks to Darren Cox about the remarkable GT-R LM Nismo, and the future of Nissan’s WEC program
evo: Of targets you set yourself before the race, which did you hit?
DC: Everything we did off-track, we dominated. We had a meeting with Porsche about our social side, they’re asking us questions… we were very pleased with that.
We said we wanted to get a car home, and we did that – it was unfortunately the car that had the longest time in the garage due to an accident – Harry hit an unidentified flying object… we said it was a badger but we think it was probably a tyre! That car obviously lost a lot of time in the garage, which meant it didn’t do as many laps as it could have done, so that was our aim – to get as much mileage under our belt as we could and I think that was something we achieved.
Other than that, we didn’t achieve the lap time we thought we were going to, due to having to make some compromises on the car. We’re racers, and although we got the ‘fan favourites’ award if you like, we’ve all got to look at ourselves and make sure that the things we learned we put in place to make the car faster. But professionally we looked as good as any other LMP1 team out there in terms of our organisation and everything – that’s something we should be very proud of.
evo: Is the team planning to contest any regular WEC rounds?
DC: We’re committed to the WEC and we’ll do all the remaining races this year. We’ve always talked about being partners of the championship and not just competitors.
But we’re already developing next year’s car, it’s a parallel program effectively. The first car at Le Mans becomes next year’s test car, and we’ll continue with the championship. The one thing we’ve got to get our heads around and fix, and we’re confident about it, is the KERS system. That’s something we’re developing now for next year.
evo: What’s your realistic goal for Le Mans next year?
DC: I’m not going to start saying we’ll be on the podium, that would be too much of a stretch, but we need to be in and amongst the guys on pace. Our simulations and our knowledge of the car makes us think it should be achievable. We forecasted the others would be as quick as they were this year – it was a big jump in performance, and we think we’ve got a lot in the locker to compete with that going forward.
evo: Is Nissan committed to this for the long term? Is it going to be a multiple-year project?
DC: The original commitment was 2 years, because the regulations change at the end of 2016. Any manufacturer involved in such a high-budget program wouldn’t commit on a regulation change, so we’re waiting now to see what the new regulations are. If they fit our objectives in terms of the company, then we’ll evaluate how we go forward.
We can’t underestimate the job that Audi did and the job that Porsche did – Audi has been at this for 15 years, they know all the tricks, and you see some of the things they do and you learn from them. 15 years of experience, and we’ve got to try and accumulate that experience very quickly.
There’s some great examples of other manufacturers going to Le Mans in their first year and not making sundown. I’ve got to take my hat off to Porsche, coming here in their second year, and doing what they did. As project leaders, we need to look at what Porsche has done, internally, their approach and everything.
We’re also proud of the GTAcademy program. Like Porsche, where many of the team’s drivers came through its young driver program, most of ours have come from GTAcademy. We’ve shown we can build our racing drivers, and not just rely on an ex-F1 driver or something. Our drivers have come through our own system.