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Nissan’s GT-R LM NISMO is another exercise in creative racecar design

Over the past couple of years, Nissan has perplexed spectators at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its DeltaWing and ZEOD-RC experimental racers.

These cars were entered as the non-competitive “Garage 56” entry, but this year Nissan isn’t messing around.

Revealed in the carmaker’s Super Bowl ad and announced last year, the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO will compete against Audi, Porsche, and Toyota for the overall win this year.

The GT-R LM NISMO is a hybrid like all of the other top-tier Le Mans entries, and bears only a superficial resemblance to the road car it’s named after.

It doesn’t really resemble the cars it will compete against, either.

Despite the strict rules governing the top LMP1-H class, Nissan has found a very unusual setup for its racer.

While most prototype-class race cars are mid-engined, the GT-R LM NISMO has its engine in the front.

It also features what many consider the least-sporty drivetrain setup: front-wheel drive. Nissan even fitter wider tires to the front than the rear.

A 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 provides most of the grunt, with a kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) harvesting electricity that can be used to help accelerate the car out of corners more quickly.

Related: Tech, tires, and tears at the 24 Hours of Le Mans

The front-engined, front-wheel drive layout gives the GT-R LM NISMO a forward weight bias, which should help with traction against the all-wheel drive competition.

However, considering how much time engineers of both race cars and road cars spend driving to even out front-to-rear weight bias, it will be interesting to see how the nose-heavy Nissan fares.

So far, Nissan has announced Spaniard Marc Gene as a driver. He won Le Mans in 2009 with Peugeot, and placed second last year with Audi. A full driver lineup will be announced closer to the beginning of the racing season.

In addition to Le Mans, the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO will race the full 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship, which includes seven other races in different countries.

Nissan-powered cars have competed in the lower tiers of endurance racing for the past few years, but this will be the first time the Japanese carmaker has aimed for an overall win at Le Mans in 16 years.

In addition to burnishing pride, Nissan says the GT-R LM NISMO will serve as a “laboratory” for future generations of the GT-R road car, which are expected to be hybrids as well.