International news

Nissan ZEOD on target
Le Mans racer poised to fulfil electric dreams, by Gary Watkins

Nissan’s radical ZEOD RC Le Mans 24 Hours racer is on course to complete the first all-electric lap of the Circuit de la Sarthe in June, according to the programme’s architect.

Darren Cox, who is head of Nissan’s global motor sport programmes, believes the petrol-electric hybrid – which takes the Garage 56 grid spot reserved for experimental machinery – will hit its targets in the French enduro on June 14/15. These include completing one lap of the 8.47-mile track solely on retrieved energy and hitting 400kph (186.4mph) down the Mulsanne Straight with only the electric element of its powertrain engaged.

The plan is for the ZEOD, which will be driven by Lucas Ordoñez, Satoshi Motoyama and Wolfgang Reip, to complete the final lap of each stint solely on electric power.

He also believes the car will be able to lap slightly faster than an LMP2 car when powered by its bespoke direct-injection turbocharged internal combustion engine and under the four-minute mark on electricity alone.

“We are very confident that we will meet all those objectives,” Cox said. “We believe that they are all achievable based on what we have so far learnt during testing.”

Cox stressed, however, that the likelihood of the ZEOD completing the 24 Hours without problems was “almost an impossibility”.

He said: “It would be an unbelievable achievement if we managed to deliver 24 hours of continuous running. That’s what we are aiming for, but not what we are expecting.”

The ZEOD programme is a likely prelude to Nissan joining the LMP1 ranks. A condition of the Japanese manufacturer being granted the Garage 56 slot was a three-year commitment to P1 from 2015.

It has only said so far that it is planning for its P1 entry, but there was a major announcement scheduled for the end of May, after Motor Sport closed for press, at which it was expected to outline its plans to return to the top-division at Le Mans for the first time since 1999.

Silverstone sale collapses

Silverstone will continue to be owned by the British Racing Drivers’ Club for the foreseeable future, after negotiations to sell the track to an undisclosed bidder broke down.

The BRDC revealed last autumn that it was negotiating to sell the track and Silverstone Circuits Ltd at the same time as it announced a deal for property group MPEC to take a 999-year lease on 760 acres of land surrounding the circuit. The proposed sale has fallen through and the timescale of a so-called Members’ Charter, which empowered the BRDC board to negotiate a sale without having to seek the members’ approval, has now lapsed.

BRDC chairman John Grant said: “After intense efforts to secure an acceptable deal, we have not been able to bring negotiations with the second potential investor to a satisfactory conclusion.

“The BRDC will now retain full ownership of SCL, whose highly experienced management team will continue to operate, promote and further develop Silverstone as a premier racing destination.”

Grant underlined that the future of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone was safe “with or without another investor” for the remainder of its 17-year contract.

Grant added: “The circuit business has enormous potential and MEPC’s development of Silverstone Park – a high-tech business park on land surrounding the circuit – will enhance the circuit’s image and value over the next several years.”

Two more for Formula E

Former Toro Rosso F1 driver Jaime Alguersuari and 2013 GP2 runner-up Sam Bird are the latest drivers to be confirmed for the inaugural FIA Formula E Championship, after signing for the Virgin team.

Alguersuari and Bird join Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt, who have already been announced by the Audi-backed Abt team, as the first drivers confirmed for the 2014/15 Formula E season.

The series kicks off on September 13 in Beijing, on a track laid out around the city’s Olympic stadium.

Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson said: “Jaime and Sam are young yet experienced drivers – and fantastic guys off the racetrack to boot. I’m delighted to welcome them both to the Virgin Racing family.”

The 10 Formula E teams have now received the first of their four Spark-Renault chassis. The second batch is due to be delivered in mid-June and the remaining cars before the middle of the following month. The first scheduled Formula E test is due to take place at Donington Park, early in July.

Formula E Holdings has also announced that it has secured the final tranche of funding for its first season, with an additional €50 million (£40 million).

In brief

The first privateer car built to the new LMP1 regulations made its debut at the Spa round of the World Endurance Championship in May. The Anglo-Swiss Rebellion Racing team had two of its eponymous Toyota-powered R-Ones present for the second round of the championship, after being forced to run its old Lolas in the series opener at Silverstone. The best of the R-Ones, which have been designed and built by ORECA in France, finished seventh in the hands of Nick Heidfeld, Nicolas Prost and Mathias Beche.