Sports car racing has evolved by leaps and bounds in the last century.
What started off as a bunch of insanely rich men taking their overpriced and over-engineered speed machines to the track and seeing who was the fastest, has turned into…well pretty much the same thing, but the cars look like spaceships now:
They sound like them too:
The rich men have been replaced by gobsmackingly wealthy car manufacturers, and the gentlemen drivers have been – for the most part – replaced with professional drivers who have been behind the wheel since the age of two. All the while, the principle remains the same: go as fast as you can and win.
However, in recent years, certain rule changes by the governing bodies of the sport have forced manufacturers to innovate in the name of adding efficiency to speed.
Hybrid systems, at first a novelty, are now required in the top tiers of racing. Strict fuel limitations juxtapose pushing as hard as you can while sipping fuel like a glorified Prius.
Despite these impositions, the general engineering of the vehicle has steadfastly remained: driver stationed in front of the engine (called “mid-engined” for those of you wanting to know), both of which are between the front and rear axle to maintain an even weight distribution, and all the power goes to the rear wheels.
Audi was the first to buck this trend by making the power from their diesel engine go to the rear wheels, but the power from the electric hybrid systems would go to the front. Everyone said they were crazy. Then it rained at Spa and Audi’s all-wheel drive absolutely crushed the competition. Now Toyota and Porsche both have all-wheel drive cars as well.
Things settled down for a year or so, but now comes along the most insane news from Nissan, who will be joining the LMP1 fray starting this year. From the good folks at Mulsanne’s Corner comes news of a completely bonkers front-engined, front wheel drive LMP1 machine, with electric hybrid power going to the rear wheels.
Why is this huge?
Mostly because making a front-wheel drive racer is completely nuts, but also because a mid-engined racer, in order to stick to the ground, requires a giant fracking wing to help keep that heavy back-end in check. That wing causes a lot of drag which hurts aerodynamics, which hurts fuel consumption and overall speed in a straight line. A car with the engine in front doesn’t need that wing anymore. Ditch the wing and massive drag reduction is the result. However, you’ll still need some fins to keep the air flowing the way you want it to.
Whoever ends up driving this thing had better wear all black, make their voice sound as gravel-y as possible, and end every TV interview with: