The number 22 Nissan GT-R LM Nismo of Harry Tincknell, Michael Krumm and Alex Buncombe proved it was capable of lasting the distance at Le Mans by reaching the chequered flag of the famous race..
The Silverstone-based Nissan squad were making their debut race appearance with their radical front-wheel-drive P1 prototype car, and despite suffering a number of complicated setbacks during the build-up to the race, Nissan demonstrated dogged determination throughout to ensure that one of their three team cars finished the race.
Although not officially classified in the results, due to completing an insufficient number of laps in comparison to the race winner, the number 22 Nissan proved that the front-engined Nissan could compete at the highest level of sportscar racing.
The Japanese manufacturer will contest the remainder of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) with two of the cars, and plan to return to Le Mans next year for another assault on the endurance classic.
Marc Gene, originally scheduled to drive one of the GT-R LM’s at Le Mans, opted not to race, but instead chose to work alongside the project to assist the team’s young drivers.
The 2009 Le Mans 24-Hour Race winner said: “The team conducted themselves really well throughout the event. This has been a very complex project and the car is still very new.
“Much of its track work has been carried out in public, and has been under continual scrutiny from many people. To do this sort of thing is not easy.
“The whole aim was to make sure at least one car reached the finish of the race. Obviously the plan was to have all three running at 3pm on Sunday afternoon, but for this year that sadly couldn’t happen. Work will now carry on towards the next race at the Nurburgring in Germany in August, and towards a return to Le Mans for 2016.”
The number 21 GT-R LM was the first retirement for the team. The car shared by Tsugio Matsuda, Mark Shulzhitskiy and Lucas Ordonez lasted 115 laps until it threw a wheel while Matsuda was driving the car.
The Japanese racer managed to return the car to the pits, but retirement swiftly followed. The number 23 car, driven by Jann Mardenborough, Olivier Pla and former F1 racer, Tom Chilton, retired early on Sunday afternoon with gearbox failure after completing 234 laps.
Jann Mardenborough was driving the 21 car when it failed, and he said: “This has been a remarkable project to be involved with. It is a shame the car broke near the end, but we will be back next year and hope to be far more competitive.”