OYAMA-CHO, Japan – Race fans at the World Endurance Championship (WEC) at Fuji Speedway were treated to a second zero-emission on demand (ZEOD) drive by Nissan ZEOD RC on Saturday. It was another step in a climb towards Le Mans next year.
In coming to Japan for its public and track debuts, ZEOD has gone from the drawing board to the paddock in only seven months, an ascent that will see the car ultimately make a full-electric lap at the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe at speeds over 300 kph.
The Fuji runs so far have been low-speed, allowing former GT1 Champion Michael Krumm to develop a better feel for its cutting-edge technology. Nissan Executive Vice President Andy Palmer sat down at Fuji with the German driver and asked about ZEOD's handling and performance.
EVP Andy Palmer: You had the great pleasure to drive the car in its debut. What was it like?
Michael Krumm: It was really the first time, not only for the shape of the car but the technology that's inside, and that was quite exciting. We had a short run with very little power, so I was quite nervous to be honest. It sounds crazy in half a straight.
Palmer: You weren't as nervous as everyone here wondering if you would get down the straight.
Krumm: The team told me yesterday about the gears, and I said "Really? I'm not really confident." There's an electric motor and a race gearbox, and I asked how is that (technology) going to work together – that's quite complicated technology already.
They said, "Don't worry, try it," and I did and it was quite exciting. You have the electric motor coming, you have a lot of torque, and then you shift and it's like a big bang, but you still have the same torque. It's not like a normal engine. It keeps going.
Palmer: It's very clever technology because you've got a doctored gearbox that somehow you get the synchronization through the electric motor, which is really quite innovative.
Krumm: Absolutely, and it was the first time today that I experienced even on such a short run a world-first gearbox like this. It's highly exciting to drive it, and I cant wait until it's fully developed.
Palmer: I couldn't help but notice there were no wing mirrors on the car.
Krumm: I noticed, too. When you're in a race car, or any car, really, the first thing you should do is check the mirrors.
Palmer: Really, I never knew a race driver who ever looked behind. They just focus on what's ahead.
Krumm: Actually, they do. When you follow a car, they pretend not to, but the head always moves slightly. They just choose to ignore seeing you.
I said the same thing – "Where are the mirrors?" But they're going to use a rear-camera wide angle, which gives us actually a much better view in the end than mirrors. We can see a lot in the back and no blockages.
Palmer: And no drag, of course.
Krumm: This is key to it, because we want to do everything as efficiently as we can. At Le Mans you want to be in the straight as fast as you can.
Palmer: Tell me about the handling, as the car obviously looks unusual with the narrow front tires. How does it feel and compare with a conventional vehicle?
Krumm: Today when I drove down the straight I was zigzagging and doing turns. I did not do this just for the cameras. I did it because I wanted to feel how that is, and that type of car feels extremely responsive in the front.
You turn the steering and immediately the car responds. At first this is quite intimidating, as you know that when a car responds too quickly, you're kind of afraid that the rear will spin around and overtake you. But, because of clever weight design with all the weight in the rear, it's actually very stable. So it actually turns, but the rear is there, and this is something as a driver you have to un-learn to be afraid of.
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