Nissan GT-R LM Nismo #21 – Spark

2015 Nissan GT-R LM Nismo #21
Pilots: T. Matsuda, L. Ordóñez, M. Shulzhitskiy. 
Team: Nissan Motorsports
Race: DNF (LMP1 class) at Le Mans in 2015
Spark - S4640 (resin)

Published 02/11/22

Radical. Using just one word, that would be a good term to describe Nissan’s GT-R LM Nismo. After all, it has been decades since a front-engine car raced at Le Mans. And to make things even more unorthodox, the car has front-wheel traction. As weird as that may sound, the science behind the concept is pretty solid. How so? Fundamentally, aerodynamics. The whole idea behind the project was to produce as much downforce as possible without incurring in drag. Most of the weight was up front, enhanced by aerodynamics generating downforce, and the front wheels were bigger. With that, the power transmission from the tires to the pavement would be optimal. That translated to much higher cornering speeds, a very desirable trait at La Sarthe. Moreover, the car generated so much downforce that it could drive on the roof of a tunnel without falling at only 240 km/h!

The flywheel of the KERS could spin at 60,000 rpm during braking! No wonder it broke easily.

The GT-R LM was designed and created specifically for the corners and high speeds of Le Mans. So to power all that outstanding aerodynamics, Nissan used the VRX30A engine. Developed by Nissan and Cosworth, it was a 3000 cm³ biturbo V6, capable of 500 hp. However, the GT-R LM was also a hybrid. That being the case, it also had a KERS (kinetic energy recovery system)  that could generate up to 750 (!) hp to the rear wheels. With that, the GT-R LM would become a 1000+ hp all-wheel drive monster. To balance the extra weight of all those systems, the chassis was a full carbon fiber tub, covered by a carbon fiber body. 

At one time in the race, the cockpit broke open and #21 had to crawl to the boxes with an open door!

However, Nissan’s unconventional approach to the GT-R LM didn’t work out. With a too-short development period, the car was just not ready for Le Mans in June of 2015. For instance, the complex KERS didn’t work properly, leaving the car under-powered. Because of that, the cars were 20 seconds slower than Porsche’s 919 Hybrid. Equally important, the suspension was weak and could easily break, so drivers had to be overly gentle. In the end, of Nissan’s three car team, two DNF and only one finished, however DNC. Car #21 here only completed 115 laps when its suspension broke, and it was out. All in all the GT-R LM was a disaster on the track, and by December 2015 Nissan announced that they were out of the prototype business. With such a history some even say that the GT-R LM was nothing more than a marketing scheme…🤔

The beauty and the beast: though #23 had a better result, in scale the winner is #21.

So, what really happened? The idea behind the concept was totally out-of-the-box, and that being so, difficulties should be expected. It’s hard to believe that a mega-corporation like Nissan would leave so much to chance. At the same time, the PR around the project was huge. Whatever really happened, I don’t think we’ll ever know. In spite of that, at least for me, such a daring project is absolutely enticing. And being honest, I think the GT-R LM is gorgeous. So despite the ignominious racing results, this is my second model of the car. My first, #23 from PremiumX, is “a tad poor” (I’m being nice). So when I found this #21 from Spark and for really cheap, I jumped on it. Spark did a great job in scale, and the model looks fantastic. 

Such a shame that the real car got nowhere 😯.

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