Nissan confirms LMP1 program for 2015 FIA WEC; car reveal will have to wait

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The good news: Nissan, via NISMO Global, has confirmed its long-rumored participation in the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship, with its new LMP1 car.

The bad news: We’ll have to wait to see what it looks like.

At a press conference in London on Friday, Nissan confirmed a two-car entry for the 2015 FIA WEC. It will take its flagship car, the GT-R, and insert it into the top level of the FIA World Endurance Championship with two cars.

The LMP1 car will be called the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO, which carries on a sporting bloodline that stretches back 30 years and recognizes the company’s flagship road car, the Nissan GT-R.

ACO President Pierre Fillon joined Nissan’s Chief Planning Office & Executive Vice-President, Andy Palmer; NISMO President Shoichi Miyatani and NIMSO Global Head of Brand, Marketing & Sales, Darren Cox, for the announcement at the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, London.

“Innovation is at the heart of everything we do,” Palmer said in a manufacturer release. “There is no better place to demonstrate innovation than here in Europe’s new hot-bed of digital marketing and, from next year, on track at Le Mans. We have chosen this venue – and made it a celebration, rather than yet another press conference – to reflect the fact that when we go racing, we do so differently.”

When it came to the press conference itself, Palmer used a bit stronger language to describe Nissan’s success in the efficiency department given the Leaf, its road-going EV model.

“The new regulations demand efficiency… and that’s what Nissan owns. We’ll bring our know-how and passion into LMP1,” he said.

As for the tease of the car, Palmer said that due to the competition, they’ll wait to unveil their car at a later date. A teaser image was included with the release.

“We all want to see it … but we’re gonna have to wait,” he said. “But Audi, Toyota, Porsche … we’re coming to spoil your party… and have fun in the process. We’re going to win in a very different way.”

Nissan’s main effort this year at Le Mans is concentrated around the all-electric Nissan ZEOD RC prototype, which is entered as the Garage 56 chassis this year, and with a wealth of engines in the LMP2 class – 15 of the 19 cars entered in class.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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