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Race delay for Nissan
Crash test problem postpones debut until Le Mans | By Gary Watkins

Nissan has withdrawn its radical new GT-R LM NISMO World Endurance Championship contender from the opening two rounds at Silverstone and Spa.

The front-wheel-drive LMP1 entry has failed its mandatory crash test and therefore could not be homologated within the required 30 days of the opening race at Silverstone on April 12. Nissan then decided to scratch from the Spa round at the start of May in order to focus on the Le Mans 24 Hours, which it has always insisted was its primary focus in its first year back in the top flight of sports car racing after a 14-year absence.

Nissan global motor sport boss Darren Cox said: “Our main aim for this year was always Le Mans and we have decided to re-focus on that race. It’s no secret that with such a different car we have faced a number of challenges, so right now we would rather be testing in April and May rather than racing.”

Cox said that the WEC and the FIA were “very supportive” of Nissan’s decision to miss the opening rounds.

The Nissan is understood to have failed its crash test on a relatively minor point concerning the front roll structure and was due to be re-tested at the end of March. But its withdrawal follows a disappointing test at Sebring at the start of the month when it completed only limited laps over the course of two days before a problem with the engine mounting that hasn’t been fully explained curtailed its running.

The GT-R LM has so far undertaken two tests at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, totalling nine days either side of Christmas, and has also run at Nissan’s Arizona test facility, West Palm Beach and undertaken straightline testing. It was due to resume testing in the US in the week of the official WEC prologue test at Paul Ricard on March 27/28 from which it also withdrew.

The car had yet to run in its full hybrid form at press time. The concept calls for energy regeneration at the front axle and deployment via the narrow nine-inch rear tyres at the rear, but Nissan has so far returned the retrieved power to the track via the front axle and the car is likely to be homologated in that form.

Ex-Marussia Formula 1 driver Max Chilton has landed the final spot in Nissan’s full-season driver line-up.

The 23-year-old will share the no23 car with Marc Gené and Jann Mardenborough, while no22 will be raced by Olivier Pla and Harry Tincknell and, at Le Mans, by Michael Krumm.

Briton Alex Buncombe, a stalwart of Nissan’s GT programmes in Europe, has been given the final seat in the third, Le Mans-only entry and will share with Lucas Ordonez and Tsugio Matsuda.

Audi ups the voltage

Audi has revealed that its 2015 WEC challenger is essentially an all-new car built around the monocoque of its predecessor.

The only carbon fibre components the latest R18 e-tron quattro retains from the 2014 car are the tub and the gearbox casing. The single front-axle kinetic energy-retrieval system has been upgraded to allow Audi to move up from the two megajoule hybrid sub-class to the 4MJ division.

“Every bit of carbon except for the monocoque and the gearbox casing is new,” said Audi Sport LMP1 technical project leader Christopher Reinke. “The structural spine of the car is the same, so it is an evolutionary step that builds on the potential that we saw last year.”

The hybrid system is a development of the existing concept, which has resulted in a power figure for the single electric motor/generator unit rated at “more than 200kW”.

“It was the more efficient way to upgrade the existing system to 4MJ rather than introducing a second system,” continued Reinke.

Reinke believes that the latest R18 can be competitive on all kinds of circuit, even though its predecessor was outgunned in terms of hybrid power by the Toyota TS040 and the Porsche 919 over the second half of last year’s WEC.

“I honestly believe — and it is more than a hope — that we have addressed thoroughly the weaknesses of the car and therefore we will be much stronger generally,” he said.

Sponsor secures Formula E

The future of the FIA Formula E Championship has been secured with a major investment from two allied corporations controlled by US media magnate John Malone.

Series founder Alejandro Agag admitted that the combined investment by Liberty Global and Discovery Communications made them the biggest shareholder in Hong Kong-registered Formula E Holdings. He refused to put a figure on the injection of funds, but said it was very big and secured the future of the series for “multi-seasons”.

“When you are discussing with car manufacturers and big sponsors, they want to know that the championship is going to be here in two years, five years or 10 years,” said Agag. “Two weeks ago, the answer to that question was, ‘we really hope so’; now the answer is ‘yes’.”

Formula E has laid out a road map to end the practice of swapping cars mid-race in season five of the championship in 2019/20, which will also certainly mean the category can no longer be a one-make formula.

“I believe we will be able to retain a single chassis for four seasons, but I don’t think that will be possible if we are to stop needing to have two cars for each race,” explained Agag. “Teams will go for quite radical technologies, which means they will need their own chassis.”

Formula E teams will be able to develop their own powertrains for season two and then batteries for season three in 2016/17, while retaining the existing Spark-Renault SRT_01E chassis. Eight so-called ‘manufacturers’ have registered for the right to be able to develop new powertrains, which includes seven of the teams and Renault, which backs the championship-leading e.dams team.

Obituary – Leo Geoghegan

Australian GT and single-seater champion Leo Geoghegan has died aged 78. Racing from 1956 on, he took an extensive range of titles including the 1960 Australian GT Championship, the 1963 Australian FJ Championship, the 1970 Australian Drivers Championship and two F2 titles. He also shared second in the 1967 Gallaher 500 with his brother Ian. He capped his career with victory in the ’69 international Japan GP, driving a Lotus 39-Repco. Geoghegan and Lotus enjoyed a close association, and his team was renowned for superb presentation.

* GP2 driver Mitch Evans will make his Le Mans 24 Hours debut this year. The New Zealander will drive for Jota Sport in the Spa and Le Mans WEC rounds aboard its Gibson-Nissan 015S LMP2.

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