A video from Nismo University explains Nissan’s bold decision to make the Le Mans racer front-wheel drive. We learn very quickly that while it wasn’t a decision the design team took lightly, they had very good reasons to give it a go.
In the video, Ben Bowlby, technical director for the FWD Nissan GT-R LM Nismo, first explains that race cars are traditionally rear-wheel drive for reasons of “traction and packaging.” On the other hand, he tells us that, contrary to popular practice, putting the power up front has its advantages.
First of all, front-wheel drive means putting the engine up front. This creates a longer so-called “bonnet,” which maximizes down-force, making air resistance much less a factor.
“But what about understeer?” you ask. Yes, the Nissan racing team concedes that understeer is indeed an issue. The trade-off is that in slippery conditions, the racer is less likely to spin.
Making a front-wheel drive car also makes the LM Nismo very much like road cars. As Jann Mardenborough, Nissan race car driver says, this has everything to do with efficiency. Efficiency is extremely important in a race like Le Mans.