Le Mans: Ecstasy quickly followed by heartbreak for Nissan ZEOD RC



Nissan's race at Le Mans came to a cruel end after just five laps when the gearbox on its innovative ZEOD RC failed.

Driver Wolfgang Reip reported the problem as he entered the high speed Indianapolis Corner and by the time he reached Arnage Corner he had slowed dramatically. With marshals help, he was able to get the car back to the pits but it was quickly realised the problem was terminal.
Reip's team-mate Lucas Ordonez said the team was proud of what it had achieved with the electric car but that they had wanted to do "do so much more".

"It hurts," he told Radio Le Mans.

"They say that life is a rollercoaster but certainly motorsport takes this to the next level. Just today we've had massive highs followed by a temporary low," said Darren Cox, Global Head of Brand, Marketing and Sales at NISMO.

"We were very confident in starting the race and earlier in the week we had already exceeded 300km/h. We were looking forward to doing some more electric laps throughout the race but a traditional part of a gearbox broke.

"It is a real shame because we were really looking forward to showcasing the EV technology in the race."

There had been a problem with the gearbox during qualifying which had caused Nissan NISMO president Shoichi Miyatani some concern.

"I had been a little bit worried because we went into the pits and the car stopped because of the gearbox. but we have overcome it," he told AOL Cars on Friday.

Saturday's retirement came just hours after the ZEOD RC had made history in the morning warm-up by becoming the first car to drive a complete circuit of the 8.5-mile Le Mans track powered by electricity only. Reip had been at the wheel then as well as the car completed the lap powered by a pair of 110 kW electric motors rotating at 40,000rpm.

Nissan entered Garage 56 with the ZEOD RC (which stands for 'zero emissions on demand') with the proviso it was granted an entry for the LMP1 class in 2015, when it will compete with the as-yet unseen GT-R LM NISMO, a project still heavily under wraps.

The ZEOD allows the driver to switch between two power sources – the pair of electric motors or the unique 1.5 litre, 40 kilogram, 400 horsepower three-cylinder internal combustion engine.

The achievement had meant the car was on the way to reaching the second of four milestones earmarked by Nissan NISMO president, Shoichi Miyatani.

Myatani had revealed to AOL Cars his four targets for the race, one of which was achieved during qualifying, when the car reached 300kph on purely electric power, which he described as a "marvellous achievement".

He had then hoped the car would be able to run one or two laps per stint on purely on electric power as well as increasing the total speed to be able to lap under 3m50s.

The final target was to finish the race.

Good fortune has not been with Nissan's Garage 56 entries in recent year. It was the first to compete in the category in 2012 when it entered the DeltaWing. That car ran for six hours before being hit by an LMP1 car which put it into the wall at the Porsche Curves, from which it never recovered.