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Nissan executive vice president of engineering Andy Palmer has announced no plans of fielding an LMP1 race car for the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) in the foreseeable future. For now, Nissan will remain committed to its production-based LMP2 entries, jumping into battle starting next week at the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Expect its main LMP2 class competitors to include Honda, Lotus, and Judd-engined entries throughout the season. What’s more, Nissan is prepared to field 11 of the registered 18 LMP2 racing cars to make it on the grid of the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In evaluating the endurance racing landscape, Palmer explained, “We’ve no plans to do LMP1. The hybrid moves in that class are interesting, but there’s no link back for us to a diesel hybrid. The rules would have to open up to make petrol hybrid competitive and relevant to make it really interesting.”
Andy Palmer’s assessment seems quite accurate. Toyota initially announced two innovative TS030 petrol hybrid LMP1 entries for Le Mans this year, but the Japanese automaker was quickly answered with the unveiling of the diesel-hybrid R18 e-tron Quattro from Audi, the reigning Le Mans champions. The governing body of Le Mans, Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), are working to further modify regulations to make petrol engines more relevant and competitive.
Andy Palmer also hinted to other innovative racing projects for Nissan in the near future. In regards to questions about Nissan’s future projects, Palmer answered, “Something crazy. Whatever we decide to do, we like to win. Look at LMP2, GT3 and Super GT. The issue is linking that winning back to the brand, which is why we’ve starting our NISMO road car project.”
In terms of alternative energy motorsports, Palmer finds electric-powered competition more relevant than hybrid racing. “We think the possibilities are very interesting. Zero emission racing could take place indoors or in the heart of a city, so we’re looking at that.” Madison Square Garden Grand Prix, anyone?
GALLERY: Nissan LMP2
[Source: Auto Car]
Highcroft Racing has dominated the LMP2 class of the American Le Mans Series for the past 4 years, but the program didn’t seem to be doing much to promote the Acura brand. In light of that, the car will now be branded as a Honda Performance Development car, a move that signals both a positive shift for Honda’s in-house go-fast division, and a bad omen for the company’s beleaguered luxury division.
This year, Highcroft will be campaigning their new entry in the much tougher LMP1 class. Patron will also no longer be sponsoring the car, having decided to instead sponsor the ALMS series as a whole. Michelin will step up to provide the funding for Highcroft. The new car, dubbed ARX-01e, will share the same tub and 3.4L V8 as the LMP2 cars of years past, but everything from the suspension to the aerodynamic package will change to make the car more competitive for LMP1.
With legendary race cars like the Audi R15 and Peugeot 908HDi as the top dogs of LMP1, Highcroft will have a tough fight ahead of them if they want to gain any ground. The first race, held in Sebring, Florida, kicks off Saturday.
Hit the jump to read the official press release
NISMO’s VK45DE powerplant, which has had huge success in the SuperGT series powering the Nissan GT-R to a championship in 2008, will be installed in LMP2 class race cars from 2011 and on. NISMO has partnered up with Zytek Motorsport, a noted Formula 1 engine builder, with Zytek taking responsibility for servicing and maintaining all the engines.
“Zytek Motorsport is delighted to enter into this partnership with Nissan Motorsports International. We firmly believe that this collaboration between these two excellent brands is going to produce competitive and reliable products. It is an honour to work with a manufacturer of the standing and reputation of Nismo and we look forward to a long and successful partnership,” said John Manchester, Zytek Motorsport’s Operations Director.
Official press release available after the break.
An Acura will run at the 24 Hours of Le Mans next year. British Strakka Racing intends to compete with the car, in the Europe Le Mans Series, including at the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans, with an Acura ARX-01b prototype that it is currently in the process of buying from the Lowe’s Fernandez team. Fernandex racing, despite winning the LMP2 championship in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), has yet to secure a sponsor for the 2010 season and so it has decided to entertain the possibility of selling the car.
Strakka Racing has already made known plans to run the car and to hire on British racer Danny Watts, although no official deal has been announced.