2015 has been as difficult as you might expect for Nissan. Its front-wheel drive GT-R LM Nismo racer is an eye-opening concept, but lack of testing mileage and the decision to sit out the WEC races at Silverstone and Spa hints at a rocky few months.
A major test at NCM Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky should silence some of the naysayers however. Drivers including Harry Tincknell, Michael Krumm, Max Chilton, Marc Gene, Jann Mardenborough and Alex Buncombe completed over 1200 miles at the American circuit.
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If the choice of location seems unusual, the clue is in the corners. NCM features several turns that replicate those at Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans – including Mulsanne Corner, the PlayStation chicane and the Porsche Curves – the latter in curvature if not topography.
Unfortunately, heavy rain means the team was only able to complete wet running – but the car and special Michelin wet tyres are said to be running well.
Speaking to GTAcademy graduate and Nismo racer Jann Mardenborough after the GT-R LM’s launch, wet weather running is apparently a strong point of the new car.
‘It’s great in the wet,’ Jann told us. ‘You have so much confidence, because it’s not snappy in the wet like a rear-wheel drive car. We’ve also got excellent traction.’
Teammate Harry Tincknell completed the most miles in testing. ‘We managed some laps in the dry on the first morning, but it has been mainly wet since then.
‘We have had the car running smoothly and are still learning masses every day. It’s been very useful.’
Team Principal Ben Bowlby added his own take on the test, which was aimed at optimising the suspension setup and refining the car’s advanced traction control system. ‘We’ve gone from trying to make the car go around a race track to getting the car ready to race.’
There’s a long way still to go – not least in the full Le Mans 24 Hours itself – but Nissan is edging ever closer to its race debut.