LM P1 Q&A with Andy Palmer, Shoichi Miyatani and Darren Cox

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Q&A with:

Andy Palmer: Chief Planning Officer & Executive Vice-President, Nissan
Shoichi Miyatani: President of NISMO
Darren Cox: Global Head of Brand, Marketing & Sales, NISMO

 

 

WHY IS MOTORSPORT SO IMPORTANT TO NISSAN?
Answer from Andy Palmer

"Nissan is all about Innovation and Excitement; what better way to showcase that brand DNA than on the race circuits of the world.

"In the past three years we've won the LM P2 class at Le Mans twice, the Japanese Super GT Championship twice and in 2014 we are leading the Super GT Championship and again supply more than a quarter of the entire 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours field with Nissan engines.

"NISMO has always been hard linked into the PlayStation generation – children who go on to be passionate about cars after learning about them in the digital word.  Now we take that one step further by taking some of those passionate fans and making them into racing drivers through GT Academy.

"We are appealing to the emotional side of new buyers, who get the connection between NISMO on track and Nissan the brand. People like GT Academy winner Lucas Ordonez with two podiums finishes at Le Mans really helps bring that message home.

"You can now make a connection between something you can aspire to be - entering GT Academy on your PlayStation to driving a Nissan NISMO on the road or even perhaps potentially being a driver in LM P1. Nissan makes this dream available to everyone and that's why, I think the whole idea of being part of Le Mans is really part of this magical golden thread of DNA that allows for all of this to be connected together.

"Nissan the brand – combined with NISMO whose job for more than 30 years is to make motorsport accessible – joining them together allows us to take our messaging throughout the world.
 
"And last but not least, we're also motorsport enthusiasts. So of course when you love something it means that you can go out and have the passion to do it really, really well and leave a mark on history."

 

WHERE WILL THE NISSAN LM P1 CAR BE BUILT?
Answer from Shoichi Miyatani

"This is very much a global project for Nissan, which means not only utilizing resources here at NISMO in Japan but also incorporating expertise from all over the world.

"We have facilities in Japan, Europe and the US which will play key roles in the development of the new car. Nissan and NISMO have strong motorsport expertise acquired through many years of motorsport participation all over the world, such as Super GT in Japan, GT3 racing and endurance races such as FIA WEC in LM P2.

"We know that LM P1 competition is very tough and with serious manufacturer competition, but we are absolutely determined to make our cars competitive and to operate strongly against those competitors."

 

WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE CAR NAME OR WHAT ITS PERFORMANCE WILL BE CAPABLE OF?
Answer from Andy Palmer

"The car will be called the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO – in reference to the famous Nissan GT-R, LM for Le Mans and NISMO to make the connection with our performance arm.  It's going to approach Le Mans within the rules but it's going to be very different in that approach and obviously that will hopefully mean that it will be very iconic in its appearance."

 

WHY HAS NISSAN DECIDED TO GO LM P1 RACING & WHEN WILL WE SEE THE CAR?
Answer from Darren Cox

"What the ACO and the FIA have done in developing the new regulations for LM P1 is to create something that is both technologically innovative and provides a key platform for manufacturers like Nissan to talk about subjects like fuel efficiency in an exciting way.

"With the FIA World Endurance Championship we also have the opportunity to test our technology in different markets around the world; that is very important for a global company such as Nissan. Accessibility is also very important for Nissan. We want our fans, our customers to see what happens behind the scenes, to feel like they are part of our team. We sell cars all over the world so we want to race all over the world too.

"In terms of timing, the new LM P1 rules for factory entries is perfect for us. The new focus on energy efficiency for 2014 and beyond means the engineering challenges have real relevance to the challenges our engineers face on our road car projects.   Our schedule is to test the car in October and run for two full seasons until the end of the current rule cycle in 2015. "

"More technical and operational details will be shared with our fans in the coming months but you can expect to see many familiar Nissan and NISMO faces in the design, development and race operations for the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO."

 

WHAT MAKES LE MANS AND THE FIA WORLD ENDURANCE CHAMPIONSHIP SO ATTRACTIVE TO NISSAN?
Answer from Darren Cox

"Nissan is one of the big players in the global automotive industry and we are growing fast by leading the push for innovation in many areas. Le Mans is the biggest race in the world and is renowned for more than 90 years as the race that drives the most breakthroughs in innovation. Some of the biggest brands in the world are racing there.

"Our engineers across the globe are passionate about cars and we want to give them a flagship project with our hero car that they can be proud of and to showcase for them, and the world, our innovative engineering mentality.

"The ACO and the FIA must be commended on the rules they have created because unlike many other series around the world, there is real room for technical innovation in LM P1. For many other series the rulebook is so confining that the design team is extremely restricted in what they can achieve.

"We know what we are going to attempt is going to be extremely challenging. Our manufacturer rivals all have incredible pedigrees in Le Mans-style sportscar racing. We'll be coming in as the underdogs, the new kids on the block with a lot to learn but we're coming with serious intentions. We know the competition and we respect the track and we're coming here to challenge both. As a brand, we are the disruptive force. We've shown that in so many ways, and now we're bringing that attitude to the front of the grid at Le Mans."

 

NISSAN LIKES TO DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY; WILL THIS BE THE SAME IN LM P1?
Answer from Darren Cox

"The new LM P1 rules are innovative and that suits our approach perfectly. For example, with GT Academy we're taking young gamers and guiding them to the highest level of the sport as racing drivers. We want to make the sport accessible to the fans in every way we can.

"We've also taken a non-traditional approach to F1 with our prestige Infiniti brand through our association with Infiniti Red Bull Racing and we're looking forward to the most prestigious of F1 events this weekend in Monaco. 

"We're joining the dots too. One of our GT Academy winners, Jann Mardenborough, is now on Infiniti Red Bull's driver development program.

"But it's not just motorsport. Nissan is also an official partner of the UEFA Champion's League with a new four-year deal and our partnership with the Olympic Games is another example of Nissan ‘going big' with a global asset."

 

WHAT INNOVATIONS WILL WE SEE FROM NISSAN IN THE LM P1 PROGRAM?
Answer from Andy Palmer

"Nissan is a company which is about innovation and excitement for everyone and there is no better way to demonstrate this than at Le Mans. To win at Le Mans you have to be innovative, motor racing by its very nature is very exciting and our view at Nissan about Le Mans is that it is all about the crowd and the fans – watching trackside or following on TV or via social media throughout the world.

"Le Mans is interesting to us because of the change in LM P1 regulations. It becomes particularly relevant in 2015, which is why we've decided to come back and be a part of Le Mans in the premier class. And it's interesting because it rewards energy efficiency, it rewards the brave and it rewards companies that hopefully behave like Nissan.

"LM P1 is not just an arms race – all our rivals in the class have taken different technical approaches and we will be doing the same.

"Our technical solution isn't there just to compete. We're not going to go to Le Mans to compete in this historic race with the intention of just turning up and making a nice marketing sideshow. Our intention is to win.

"We want to be the bad boys. In taking this route we want to be able to use the assets of our company, because again, we want to appeal to the NISMO generation, which has been brought up with the GT Academy and recognizes NISMO as road cars and racecars.

"We want to excite the customers in a way which is consistent with the way that we see the world. Nissan is the world leader in global electric cars and we pioneered the electric car with vehicles like the LEAF. We believe that our knowledge and our experience of electrification, knowledge of the battery and the electric car – this technical advantage gives us solutions to win Le Mans."

 

HOW HEAVILY INVOLVED IS NISMO IN THE NEW PROJECT?
Answer from Shoichi Miyatani

"NISMO, the motorsport and performance arm of Nissan, is contributing strongly to the project through project management and engineering and operational support.  Our expertise for motorsport engineering and operation acquired through our long term participation in Super GT, development of GT3 spec GT-R, and development and technical support of the LMP2 engines and so on will be fully utilized."

 

IS NISMO JUST A BRAND NAME THAT STANDS FOR NISSAN MOTORSPORT?
Answer from Darren Cox

"NISMO is not just a big building in Yokohama full of top-level motorsport talent; NISMO is our brand that epitomizes the highest level of performance at Nissan.

"The NISMO brand has been introduced to our customers on the road through the enhanced models like Juke NISMO and the new GT-R NISMO.

"Of course the name NISMO was originally created from NISsan MOtorsport. It's much more than that - it stands for everything we (and the fans) love about racing, the passion, the close calls, the rivalries, the crowds, the wins, the losses, the cars, the history… it's what we love, it's what we do. We're looking forward to adding to that history with the LM P1 program."

 

WHO IS GOING TO DRIVE THE CARS?
Answer from Darren Cox

"No decisions have been made on drivers at this point in time. Nissan has a lot of very talented drivers. Their backgrounds are varied. Our large talent pool in Japan for Super GT is a big advantage to have as is the young guys who have come through GT Academy and already have Le Mans experience.

"Our goal is to get the best guys we can to drive the cars – we'll have some drivers who are already within the Nissan "family", but we'll also have some new additions to the family.

"It doesn't matter what country they're from, the drivers will be chosen on speed and having the right mindset for Nissan and NISMO – not necessarily on nationality."

 

WILL THE TECHNOLOGY USED ON THE GT-R LM P1 CAR TRANSFER THROUGH TO NISSAN'S GT-R ROAD CARS?
Answer from Shoichi Miyatani

"The GT-R symbolizes the ultimate in Nissan's performance. It is a true aspirational brand, a car our fans, our customers love to drive, and love to own. We have been using GT-R in motorsport for many years now, in Super GT and GT3. The technology and aerodynamics acquired through motorsport are fed back into the road cars and we launched the GT-R NISMO road car at the end of last year, 2013, here in Japan.

"The performance of that GT-R road car is proven with a record of 7:08.679 seconds at the famous Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit – the fastest ever lap for a production sportscar. Our new version of our Super GT race car also took fastest lap at Fuji Speedway and we just won the last round of the Super GT Championship.

"Now, for LM P1, we plan to carry that spirit forward to the highest level as Nissan targets victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours and FIA World Endurance Championship with the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO."

 

HOW WILL THE KNOWLEDGE GAINED IN LM P1 COMPETITION FURTHER ADVANCE NISSAN AND NISMO COMPETITION ACROSS THE GLOBE?
Answer from Shoichi Miyatani

"The knowledge base is certainly going to increase.  Participating in Super GT GT500 and developing the cars and is really important to keep, maintain and improve the knowledge base, the experience base for NISMO.

"That experience is going to be expanded through the LM P1 program. The Super GT program feeds back into LM P1 and LM P1 feeds back into Super GT and other programs around the world."

 

WHAT WOULD VICTORY AT LE MANS MEAN TO YOU PERSONALLY?
Answer from Shoichi Miyatani

"The Le Mans 24 Hours has always been positioned at the heart of endurance racing and NISMO has fought for the win in the past. Our record is third place so a lot of Nissan and NISMO employees are looking for the overall victory in LM P1. If we achieve it, it would be a big thing for me personally and also for all our employees, customers and fans."

 

WITH PORSCHE JOINING THIS YEAR AND NISSAN IN 2015 AS THE FOURTH MANUFACTURER, HOW INTENSE DO YOU THINK THE COMPETITION WILL BE?
Answer from Shoichi Miyatani

"Very intense and very tough. To win LM P1 is not easy, it is going to be very difficult, especially at Le Mans. You don't know what is going to happen in just one hour, let alone what will happen over the course of 24 hours.

"We need to be prepared if something happens. That kind of experience and expertise is vital, in addition to making the cars competitive. In 24 hours you need to be well prepared for accidents and to always expect the unexpected. We have to be trained and ready.

"We gained that kind of experience in the past when we tried to win Le Mans. And that experience is going to be very important and very valuable for the new program."

 

HAS NISSAN'S INVOLVEMENT IN THE TWO GARAGE 56 PROJECTS AT LE MANS BEEN A STEPPING STONE TO LM P1?
Answer from Darren Cox

"Absolutely! The ACO should be highly praised for introducing the Garage 56 idea. Nissan would not be in LMP1 without that idea as a stepping stone. While we don't have as much freedom in LM P1 as we have with Garage 56 and the Nissan ZEOD RC, the new rules package for LM P1 provides us with significant opportunities to do things differently.

"There are also a lot of lessons we have learned from ZEOD that have been key to bringing this project to life.

"One key aspect is we certainly recognise the Le Mans 24 Hours as an exceptional platform that provides a tremendous opportunity to talk to people that are passionate about cars. If we weren't happy with what was achieved at Le Mans with LM P2 for example, we wouldn't be here today.

"There are a lot of people involved in this program who at the heart of it are very hard core racers. We know we have a big mountain to climb, but we'll be giving this everything we've got."

 

HOW WILL THIS YEAR'S NISSAN ZEOD RC PROGRAM AT LE MANS HELP NEXT YEAR'S LM P1 PROGRAM?
Answer from Andy Palmer

"We can look at this year's race with the Nissan ZEOD RC in its own context as the world's fastest ever electric race car. We are attempting to do an entire lap of Circuit de la Sarthe under electric power – a world first.

"It takes the electrification of the motor vehicle to the next level. Our competitors Porsche, Audi and Toyota are all running hybrid cars but the ZEOD RC is a real showcase in Nissan's leadership in electric vehicles.

"Everywhere around the world people will recognize that Le Mans is the toughest endurance race in the world and if you can show the technical prowess to take an electric car to the circuit and compete in a 24 hour race, then you are demonstrating the benefit and the confidence in electric vehicles.

"Some of these learnings from the Nissan ZEOD RC will then follow forward into our entry into LM P1 in 2015."

 

DOES THE NEW LM P1 PROGRAM MEAN NISSAN WILL CEASE TO COMPETE ELSEWHERE?
Answer from Shoichi Miyatani

"This LM P1 program is a brand new initiative and we will not be undertaking it at the exclusion of other programs. Our aim will be to continue to race, to win in Super GT, LM P2, GT3 racing and V8 Supercars and now LM P1."

 

YOU'VE SAID WE'RE THERE TO WIN, IS THAT A PROMISE THAT NISSAN WILL DO THAT?
Answer from Andy Palmer

"You don't go to Le Mans to just turn up. The brief to the team is go with something different, go with something that brings new technology which is transferable to the road car, technology and an approach that is innovative and exciting and of course, go to win."

 

 

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FURTHER INFORMATION:

Global Motorsport Communications

Paul Ryan: +1 678 6440404
Email: paul@NISMOsupport.com

Lindsay Morle: +44 7971 481078
Email: lindsay@NISMOsupport.com

Twitter: @NISMO_Global
YouTube: www.NISMOTV.com

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Issued by Nissan