The Nissan GTR-LM was a risky design. If it hit it would have changed the way we view race cars. However Ben Bowlby’s big swing ended in failure, spectacular failure. The Nissan GTR-LM’s competed in 1 race and none of the 3 cars entered completed enough laps to be classified. After their lone appearance in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans Nissan tried to fix the issues but in the end the car’s faults proved to be to numerous and the program was canceled. This was unfortunate, not only for the people whose jobs depended on the program but for the program itself. If they had only challenged the LMP1 norms in one or two places the car could have been competitive. However they decided to challenge every single norm in modern prototype racing. Front engined, Front Wheel Drive, skinny rear tires it was all a bridge too far.
While we consider what might have been, the heart of the Nissan GTR-LM has lived on. The 3.0 liter twin turbocharged V6 was the most conventional part of the GTR-LM. Jointly developed by Nissan and Cosworth the engine has been available to privateer teams since the GTR-LM’s demise. ByKolles has become the first team to purchase the Nissan engines and will fit them to their brand new CLM P1/01 chassis for 2017.
“Engine supply from NISMO is of great significance to our team,” said ByKolles Head of Operations Boris Bermes. “After having to deal with many setbacks in the past due to engine reliability issues, for the 2017 season, we’re expecting a significant improvement in terms of both reliability as well as performance.”
“We’re relentlessly working on numerous additional improvements to our car. As a result of the changes in regulations for 2017, we will be able to make big improvements to both the front and the rear, particularly in aerodynamics. In addition to that, our design engineers have achieved a reduction in weight, and have introduced comprehensive updates to mechanical components. We’re already looking forward to the first tests with our fully revamped CLM P1/01. For this year, we are looking to clearly demonstrate our improvements and continue to develop our CLM P1/01.”
So what does this mean in the big picture? First off, it is nice to see Nissan bounce back from the spectacular failure that was the GTR-LM. Usually a failure like that sets back a racing program for years. But Nissan took the hit, reevaluated and has come back. They have their DPi team in IMSA and now this engine deal in LMP1. Secondly iIt is always a good thing when a small team receives support from a factory, In theory it will make them more competitive. How competitive, that remains to be seen. Unfortunately for ByKolles they still have to go up against the might of Porsche and Toyota this season. Unless they found a magic bullet it will be a huge ask for them to match the pace of the mighty Hybrid Prototypes. When all power units deploy the LMP1 Hybrids are pushing 1,000 horsepower. It is very difficult for a small team to match that pure grunt. I think ByKolles will be better this season, however I still think they’ll be at the back of the LMP1 pack, hoping for reliability issues to strike their competition.
However it is not all bad news, in 2018 ByKolles will get some playmates in the LMP1 privateer category when Ginetta and SMP join the fray. Having 2017 to learn their new engine and develop their new car will give them a leg up on their competition in 2018.