Posts Tagged ‘motorsports’

Japanese Car Auction Find: Toyota AE86 — The Drifter’s Dream

Posted by Stephen On Monday, April 11th, 2016

The Toyota Corolla today is one of the most popular cars in existence, due to its small but durable size and budget-friendly pricing. However, few people know much about its history or what kinds of models went into making the final product. One of these earlier types was the Toyota AE86, which was introduced by Toyota in 1983 as part of the fifth generation Toyota Corolla, with the final models rolling off the production lines in 1987. As such, it is just one generation of the Toyota Corolla Levin and Toyota Sprinter Trueno spanning the years from 1972 to 2004.

There were some differences between the Levin and the Trueno, but to the general observer they were almost indistinguishable. The word “Levin” means “lightning” in Old English and “Trueno” means “thunder” in Spanish, making the two models an interesting play on words. Other than the names, the main difference between them was the headlights: while the Levin had fixed, rectangular headlights, the Trueno offered pop-up headlights instead.

1984 Toyota Sprinter Trueno at auction in Japan -- front

One of the unique aspects of the AE86 was that it maintained a rear-wheel drive at a time when most other cars – particularly small hatchbacks – were switching over to front-wheel drive. As such, it is one of the last rear-wheel drive cars of its time. The AE86 body type was offered as either a 2-door coupe or 3-door liftback, which can also be called a hatchback. Other specifications included the 4-cylinder engine that was also used in other Toyota models of the time, as well as a 5-speed manual gearbox (although an automatic model was offered later as well).

Stopping and cornering on the AE86 was handled by ventilated disc brakes, as well as a MacPherson strut independent suspension at the front and a four-link live axle with coil springs bringing up the rear. Stabilizer bars were present at both ends of the car to make for a suspension system that was relatively sophisticated for what was a low-end model. All of this attention to detail lead to the fun handling that makes the car a stand-out model today in the minds of Japanese classic car enthusiasts.

During its production lifetime, the AE86 was well known for its achievements on the racetrack as well as the highway. The model was a popular choice for showroom stock, Group A, and Group N racing, and was found especially frequently in rallying and circuit races. Privateer teams continued to race the AE86 even after it was discontinued, and you can even find teams that race with this vehicle today. What makes it so appealing is its rear-drive configuration, which is not found in many other cars of the era and especially not in modern models of lightweight coupes.

The car was popular in races in Ireland and Finland, and also did well in international touring races where it competed mainly with Honda Civics and others lightweight vehicles of its type. In 1986, it was entered in the European Touring Car Championship and won the Manufacturers Championship, beating out larger cars including the BMW M6, BMW 325i (E30), Rover Vitesse, Volvo 240 Turbo, Merkur XR4Ti, Mazda 929, Holden Commodore (VK), Alfa Romeo 75 (turbo V6), and Mercedes 190E.

Japanese street racers, known as hashiriya, prized the AE86 as well for its light weight, relative strength and especially its rear-wheel driving configuration, which made it popular for races through mountain passes where downhill corners were particularly suited to the capabilities of this car. In particular, the AE86 was well adapted to drifting, or the process of controlled sliding through corners. Japanese drifters like Katsuhiro Ueo, Toshiki Yoshioka, Yoichi Imamura, Koichi Yamashita, Hiroshi Takahashi, Tetsuya Hibino, and Wataru Hayashi made the AE86 famous in the drift scene in the 1980s.

As a result of its popularity in Japan, the AE86 was found in many episodes of Japanese anime and manga; the model also made a brief appearance in Fast and Furious 4 and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, indicating its popularity in American popular culture as well. It is also featured in a number of video game series, including Gran Turismo, Tokyo Xtreme Racer, Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto V. It also appears in several video games and movies in the Need for Speed franchise, including Need for Speed: Underground 2, Need for Speed: The Run (where it can be used in challenges and multiplayer events), Need for Speed: World, Need for Speed: Pro Street, and Need for Speed (2015 movie).

Here is a 1984 Sprinter Trueno GTV that is in the car auctions in Japan. The mileage is high, but that is typical for cars of this age. This car has a lot of aftermarket parts, and seems to be in relatively good condition considering its age:

“Grade 3.5, first registered March 1984, 204,874KM, GTV model, five-speed manual gearbox, AC, front adjustable suspension, rear lowered suspension, Watanabe magnesium 14 inch wheels, strut bar, earthing system, aftermarket shock absorbers, super muffler, aftermarket radiator, aftermarket upper hose and lower hose, Apex air cleaner, TRD plug courts, Tein front adjustable-type upper mount, AC does not work well and needs repair, interior grime, ???? (unreadable) hole in body work, seats sagging and cut, dashboard loose and cut, front cross member dented, rust underneath vehicle, corrosion and other marks as per map”

1984 Toyota Sprinter Trueno at auction in Japan -- inspection report

1984 Toyota Sprinter Trueno at auction in Japan-- rear

1984 Toyota Sprinter Trueno at auction in Japan -- interior


Nissan’s 2014 NISMO Festival was a Blazing Success!

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Earlier this month, Nissan wrapped up their 2014 NISMO Festival, and this year’s annual event was a big one. As the 30th anniversary of Nissan’s motorsports tuning arm, the Japanese automaker spared no expense in celebrating all of the very, very fast vehicles that their firm has made.

This year’s NISMO event was held at the renowned Fuji Speedway. We’d already mentioned one piece of news that came from this event, which was that of the possible new engine options in the next-gen 370Z. But, this was such a big year for Nissan – what with their GT500 GT-R taking the Super GT Championship, and the Japanese premiere of the new production-ready Nissan GT-R – that no non-Japanese reader should be deprived of the excitement.

The fanfare kicked off with the 2014 NISMO parade (below), which is a 100-car line of dressed-up NISMOs that make a round on the track to introduce the Festival.

Then there were the usual fan-favorites, like the Nissan GT-R and 370Z NISMO drifting displays, where drivers show off the right way to take a corner.

At any festival explicitly designed for speed freaks, a race or two is to be expected, and this year’s NISMO Festival didn’t disappoint. For instance, several of Nissan’s Super GT drivers showed off test laps on the new GT500 GT-R. And nobody at the event missed the finale race – the GT-R CTE Cup, which is made up of identical GT-R R35 models all aggressively competing for first place. And for the serious motorsport fans, there was also the NISMO Grand Prix where Japanese racers brought out their GT-R and Z’s for fearsome head-to-head competition.

Even outside of the track, this year’s NISMO Festival was a truly awe-inspiring event. It’s easy for us Western readers to forget just how vast the NISMO lineup has become, since many models are exclusively available in Japan. These include


New Nissan Micra Cup Gets You Racing For Under $20K

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

2015 Nissan Micra Cup

Thanks to Nissan, there’ll be a new way for Canadian motorsport enthusiasts to get their first genuine racing experience in 2015. The opportunity comes thanks to the inaugural 2015 Nissan Micra Cup, which will start next May. As you may be able to guess from the circuit’s title, it’ll be a one-make racing series sanctioned by Auto Sport Quebec in which all the drivers pilot tuned up Nissan Micra hatchbacks.

At first glance, this idea may seem a little drab. But think about it… The regular commercial Micra may be an entry-level model, but it’s a sturdy little car and anything can be tuned up for track performance. See for yourself in the video below:

To make a car for the series, Nissan is partnering up with JD Motorsports to augment a batch of Micra 1.6 S hatchbacks (not available in the US) with a variety of performance upgrades. Those upgrades include NISMO’s S-Tune suspension kit, high-performance brake pads, a custom sports exhaust, a built-in safety cage, and custom Fastwheels with Pirelli’s low profile + high performance tires. Under the hood you’ll find the stock engine for the Nissan Micra 1.6 S, which is a 1.6L DOHC four-cylinder with duel fuel injection. The engine will be paired with Nissan’s Twin CVTC system and the Micra’s rugged stock five-speed manual transmission.

Of course, there’ll also be the standard motorsport safety features including a fire extinguisher, driver protection net and a five-point harness, along with front and rear towing hooks.

The best part about this is that Nissan will make all of this available under $20,000. In fact, at just $19,998 for the sport-tuned model, the Nissan Micra Cup is officially the cheapest motorsport entry point in Canada. And it’s fun to drive too! Jean-François Demoulin, a well-known Canadian racer, was invited to head-up the track-tuned Micra’s testing, and he was surprisingly pleased. “I really enjoyed every minute I spent testing the Nissan Micra… For a car which is still almost stock, it’s quite fast and so much fun to drive!”

2015 Nissan Micra Cup 2

Nissan tells us that they aim to have more than 25 Micras competing in each race weekend, and each driver will get a solid two hours of on-track racing time. That’ll come from a preliminary 30-minute trial, a 30-minute qualifier, and then two 30-minute races. Sounds like a ton of fun!

We have to say, this is a really smart marketing move on Nissan’s part to introduce the Nissan Micra Cup in Canada the same year that they’re launching the Nissan Micra NISMO. Every motorsport enthusiast should mark their calendar for next May when the series opens. And if you’re one of our Canadian readers with $20,000 burning a hole in your pocket, you can learn more about the Micra Cup at Nissan Canada’s official site.


Nissan Previews Possible New GT-R in Gran Turismo 6

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

It wasn’t too long ago that Mitsubishi used the upcoming Gran Turismo 6 PlayStation 3 racing game as a platform to debut their newest racing concept. However, while Mitsubishi’s concept is unlikely to make it out of the digital world, Nissan’s newly unveiled contribution to the GT6 Vision garage could very well make it to production. Of course, it’s possible that even if it’s manufactured, it’ll remain a track-only vehicle, but early rumors indicate something more.

Let’s start by looking at the teaser below:

Nissan Vision GT Teaser

Even though this is a vague and artistic image, it actually tells us a lot about Nissan’s contribution to GT6. In fact, it might even tell us too much; this mystery car has been rumored to be everything from the brand’s next WRC racer to their new LMP1 prototype or even the next commercial GT-R.

Personally, we believe that the image above previews the next Nissan GT-R. It might not be the mass-production version we’ll eventually see on the streets; perhaps instead it’s a racing-only version, like the upcoming Nissan R36 GT-R we discussed a week or two ago as Nissan’s return to Le Mans racing.

Whatever it is, though, there is clearly some level of production intent. After all, why else would Andy Palmer, Nissan Vice President, tweet the question “Think it’s worth coming to Goodwood?” with the teaser image? Clearly Nissan are planning this to have some carry-over to the real world. We already knew that Honda was planning to bring their NSX to the Goodwood Festical of Speed, so why wouldn’t Nissan bring some competition in the form of their next GT-R?

One of the most noteworthy aspects of the darkened teaser image Nissan has provided us with is the peculiar front-end, unlike anything we’ve seen from them up to this point. The image shows a car with a shortened front-clip with colossal air vents and a very prominent front spoiler. The way that the vents on both the front and side seem to dip into the middle of the car could possibly suggest a mid-engine layout, which offers a highly favorable weight distribution for excellent rear-wheel traction. Let’s cross our fingers that this is the case.

In the end, all we know for sure is that this car – whatever it may be – is the next in a long line of Nissan contributions to Gran Turismo. In fact, did you know that the first GT-R was originally introduced to international drivers through the Gran Turismo video game, decades ago? This explains why it actually makes contextual sense for Nissan to use this platform to launch the next GT-R, if that’s what it turns out to be.

Either way, the one thing that Nissan has promised is that “all will be revealed” next Monday, June 16th. So, stay tuned until then for the full scoop.

In the meantime, thanks for reading!


Next-Gen Nissan GT-R to Use Le Mans Hybrid Technology

Posted by Stephen On Monday, June 9th, 2014

A couple weeks ago, Nissan released their first official teasers for their reentry into the Le Mans in the highly competitive LMP1 category. The car they’ll be racing with will be the Nissan GT-R LM Nismo, and Nissan hopes that it will finally win them a Le Mans championship title.

What Nissan didn’t officially tell us last week is that this upcoming Nissan GT-R LM Nismo will also set the stage for the next production-spec Nissan GT-R. The news comes from an interview between Autocar and Nissan VP Andy Palmer. Throughout the interview, Palmer dropped several interesting hints as to what we can expect from Nissan’s next Godzilla.

2014 Nissan GT-R

There’s one quote in particular that reveals an important element of the next GT-R. At the launch of the GT-R LM NISMO, Palmer was quoted saying, “If you go to the patent office, you’ll find something called R Hybrid, so there’s obviously a connection there.”

What’s that?

The next GT-R will come with a hybrid powertrain, at least as an option?

It seems likely, especially since Nissan had already hinted that the next GT-R might use “electrification” to achieve the performance enhancements we all want without raising emissions. Palmer elaborated, saying, “We’re on a road towards low emissions – and eventually zero emissions – that is relevant to all cars. What’s interesting about hybrids is that they not only improve fuel economy, but they also improve performance, so therefore it is relevant.”

Nissan had already stated that their mission with the GT-R LM NISMO, in addition to taking home a championship title, is to revitalize the connection between motorsports and road cars. So, to base the next commercial Nissan GT-R on this new GT-R race car is actually a logical next step.

“We very clearly want to make technological linkages between future evolutions of the GT-R and evolutions of what we do in LMP1… Just to give you an example, consider wing mirrors. Our ZEOD RC hybrid racer doesn’t have wing mirrors. If you think about it, how stupid are they? They add drag, screw up fuel efficiency and their hopeless as visual aids compared to cameras.”

This explains why the ZEOD RC has round view mirrors instead of wing mirrors. Just like wing mirrors were originally introduced into road cars through the world of motorsports, Nissan hopes to reverse the trend the same way. This is just one example of how they hope to reignite the connection between motorsports and commercial cars.

As for exactly what specs we can expect from the next Nissan GT-R’s powertrain, it’ll likely keep the same 3.8L twin-turbo V6 with 542bhp used in the current model, but rumors hint that it’ll also introduce a hybrid system developed by F1-based Williams Advanced Engineering. This is the same engineering firm that developed the hybrid technology for the Audi R18 LMP1 racer, so it’s sure to be impressive.


Mitsubishi Unveils XR-PHEV Evolution Vision Concept on PS3

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Earlier this year, Mitsubishi made official plans to axe their Lancer Evo sports car, but it seems that they’re already making plans to reinvigorate the Evo lineup. In doing so, they’ve unleashed a concept that – for the first time in recent memory – is actually exciting to look at.

The only problem?

It only exists in the virtual world. It’s the Mitsubishi XR-PHEV Evolution Vision Concept as seen in the Gran Turismo 6 video game for the PlayStation 3:

2014 Mitsubishi XR-PHEV Evolution Vision Concept

Even if this is a car that only exists in the digital realm, you have to admit that it’s one you’d like to take for a spin. And you can if you’re a PS3 gamer; the XR-PHEV is part of the Gran Turismo 6 Vision Initiative, which has automakers from around the world submit concepts to feature in-game. Last December we’d heard that Toyota would feature a Supra concept in GT6, but this is the first we’ve heard – or seen – of Mitsubishi’s contribution.

So, what exactly are we looking at?

The XR-PHEV concept features what Mitsubishi has dubbed the “Athlete Form” design language, which speaks to the rally racer’s lean and muscular exterior, like that of a sprinter ready to pounce at the starting gun shot.

To give you a little bit of context, Mitsubishi originally showed an XR-PHEV Concept last November (below) which was intended to showcase a possible direction for the next-gen Outlander, ETA unknown. Thus, the sports car seen in Gran Turismo 6 is actually a refined version of the XR-PHEV CUV. You can clearly see the similarities between the two vehicles.

2013 Mitsubishi XR-PHEV Concept

Just like the original crossover concept, the XR-PHEV Evolution Vision features, you guessed it, a Plug-in Hybrid EV engine… At least, it would if it were a real car. The PHEV powertrain would likely be turbocharged and connected to an eight-speed dual clutch transmission, topped off with 20-inch aluminum wheels.

2014 Mitsubishi MiEV Evolution III

Obviously, Mitsubishi will probably never produce a production-ready version of the XR-PHEV Evolution Vision Concept. However, they are bringing a car that bears a slight resemblance to the upcoming Pikes Peak Hill Climb (above), although it will be the third year in a row that they’ve used the same car. Still, if nothing else this shows that Mitsubishi is maintaining a tenuous hold on their motorsports potential, so perhaps a toned-down version of the XR-PHEV Evo Vision isn’t totally out of the question.

Either way, if you’d like to see Mitsubishi’s newest racing concept in virtual action, we’ll leave you with the demo video below:


New Nissan GT-R LM NISMO to Conquer 2015 Le Mans 24-Hour Race

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Nissan GT-R LM NISMO

At a press conference in Europe last Friday, Nissan confirmed their intention to make a dramatic entry into the Le Mans 24 Hours race starting next year. Except, it won’t be in the Garage 56 category like they were with their quirky-but-cool ZEOD RC; it’ll be with a serious LMP1 category contender coming in the form of a new Nissan GT-R LM NISMO.

Just how fearsome will this new Le Mans NISMO be? Take a look for yourself below; it’s pretty scary:

As you can see, Nissan is deliberately keeping an air of mystery about their newest GT-R. All we can see is the vague silhouette in the image at the top of this post and the quad taillights in the creepy teaser video. Obviously, this doesn’t tell us a whole lot about what we can expect from the 2015 GT-R LM NISMO.

Thankfully, Nissan VP Andy Palmer had more than a little bit to say about Nissan’s entry into next year’s Le Mans. At the press conference he explained, “We want to win in a very different way to that of our rivals. We won’t be turning up in a vehicle which is basically another hybrid that looks like another Porsche, Audi or Toyota – they all look the same to me – our intention is to do something that is a little bit different.”

However, next year’s Nissan GT-R LM NISMO will aim to do more than just break trends; Palmer explained that the Japanese automaker still has “unfinished business” in Le Mans racing. As you can see in the infographic below, it’s one of the few major motorsport events that Nissan has never won.

Nissan Racing Performance

So, while the new GT-R will certainly look good, Palmer also describes it as Nissan’s chance to target victory on yet another frontier. “We know that LMP1 competition is very tough, with serious manufacturer competition, but we are absolutely determined to make our cars competitive and operate strongly against those competitors.”

Finally, Andy Palmer revealed one last motive for entry into the Le Mans LMP1 category, and it’s one that we’ve hinted at before. A passionate Palmer emphasized, “Believe me, I think this is the car that will go down in the annals of time and be one of those cars which will be long remembered, not only for the fact that it will have won Le Mans, but also because it reset the real meaning of NISMO as a link between success on the track and success on the road.”

Now, those are bold, bold words. This guy has either drunk the hyperbole Kool-Aid one too many times, or he knows something we (and Porsche, Toyota and Audi) don’t. Is he nuts, or did Nissan create the NISMO flux capacitor? Only time will tell.

Given NISMO’s recent success, Nissan is justified in believing that now is the time to reignite the connection between the racetrack and the road. This year’s Le Mans promises to be exciting indeed.


Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Going Extinct After 2014

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Let’s start this article with the one thing that’s on everybody’s mind – this is NOT an April Fool’s Day joke. As of this week, Mitsubishi has announced that their Lancer Evolution performance sedan will cease production after this year. This means that in 2015 and beyond, Mitsubishi will no longer offer any sporty vehicles; the Lancer Evo was the last one.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X

Some critics have already made the bold claim that this will be the end of Mitsubishi as we know it. From their perspective, the Lancer Evo was the only remaining Mitsubishi that had anything at all over the competition. They point out that it is/was the last desirable car in their lineup. Whether the future of the small Japanese brand is as dire as that remains to be seen. And, to be fair, it’s not clear whether or not the Lancer will become completely extinct. The platform may get some use in other models, although it seems unlikely.

Here’s what Mitsubishi’s Namie Koketsu had to say about the Lancer’s demise:

“Mitsubishi Motors does not have any plans to design a successor with the current concept, as a high-performance four-wheel drive gasoline-powered sedan, [instead] Mitsubishi Motors will explore the possibilities of high-performance models that incorporate electric vehicle technology.”

Of course, this all fits with Mitsubishi’s long-term plan as they described it near the end of 2013. At that time, they were just finishing up a highly profitable year. From their perspective, there was a time and place when motorsport performance had a heavy correlation with units sold… It started from 1996 to 1999, when the Lancer Evo took down four back-to-back WRC titles. Those stats led to a successful US debut in 2003, and contributed to near 250,000 global sales in the Evo’s long and storied life.

However, despite what Nissan might say, Mitsubishi believes that those days have passed. The majority of today’s drivers couldn’t care less about motorsports performance, so Mitsubishi is shifting their brand-wide focus to affordable green vehicles. They want to build out their portfolio of electric and hybrid vehicles to the point where 20% of their lineup will be electrified by 2020. As for their non-electric vehicles, they’ll put a heavy focus on globally applicable crossovers and SUVs – cars that are always popular.

In short, Mitsubishi has finally recognized that a smaller automaker can’t do the same things that a larger one can, at least not in this automotive market climate. So, they’re trimming their lineup; AutoNews reports that they intend to drop down to 13 models from the 18 models they offer now. It sounds eerily reminiscent of Mazda’s business plan, which can be best described as doing a few things really well instead of trying to do everything mediocrely.

In the end, the decision to cease production of the Lancer Evolution seems like a smart one. If they don’t have the manpower to continue keeping their performance sedan up to snuff, then they might as well axe it entirely. And with cutting edge products like the electric i-MiEV and the innovative PHEV SUV hybrid Outlander, it’s not as if Mitsubishi is giving up, just making the deft change of direction the Evo was so rightly famous for.


New Toyota TS040 Hybrid LMP1 Revealed with Almost 1000HP

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

2014 is shaping up to be a big year for motorsports. It’s the first year in a while that we’ll see Porsche jump back into endurance racing, and Audi is ready to defend its title with its R18. However, a new challenger arises, and like the Six Million Dollar Man, it’s better… stronger… faster. It’s the Toyota TS040 Hybrid LMP1, and it’s primed and ready to take on the 2014 World Endurance Championship with its hybrid powertrain blazin’.

2014 TS040 Hybrid LMP1

The new race car was revealed this week at France’s Paul Ricard track, and it’s been tuned from the outgoing model – the TS030 Hybrid LMP1 – to fit all the new regulations put in place by the FIA. On the outside, that means it’s about 2 inches narrower than the TS030, but on the inside it’s both more powerful and more eco-friendly.

Looking at the numbers, Toyota has informed us that the new TS040 gets an upgraded 3.7L V8 engine that outputs a hefty 513hp. Although that’s 17hp less than the old TS030’s 3.4L V8, the new engine will also be paired with a new AWD hybrid system, which uses two electric motors – one for the front and one for the rear – along with a supercapacitor to tie the whole thing together. You can see a demonstration of the new hybrid system in the video below:

Taken together, the engine, front-end Aisin AW electric motor, back-end Denso electric motor and the Nisshinbo supercapacitor can output 986hp – 513hp from the engine and 473hp from the motors. If that weren’t enough, the extra motor and improved Kinetic Energy Recovery System allow the car to attain 25% lower fuel consumption, and the AWD configuration allows for superior driving dynamics over last year’s RWD model.

As you might notice, the engine-motor-capacitor configuration is strikingly similar to what we’ve seen in the Toyota Yaris Hybrid R and the Toyota FT-1 Concept, and the improved fuel economy is what allows the TS040 to adhere to the new 2014 WEC standards.

In addition to the improved mechanics of the TS040, the racecar has also been made more aerodynamic than the previous iteration. The revised aerodynamics allow the TS040 to use slightly narrower tires without sacrificing traction, thanks to the extra downforce of the new design. All in all, the car weighs in at 100 lbs less than the TS030. The new LMP1 racer also gets a couple new safety features, as required by championship regulations.

At the TS040 Hybrid LMP1’s unveiling, Toyota informed us that they will once again bring two cars to the track. One will be driven by Alex Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima. The other will be shared by Nicolas Lapierre, Sebastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson. Even as we speak, the car is being tested at the Le Castellet track in preparation for the first race of the WEC season – 6 Hours of Silverstone – which will take place on April 20th.


Nissan Unveils Tech Specs for the ZEOD RC Hybrid Racecar

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Nissan ZEOD RC

Ever since we got our first look at the Nissan ZEOD RC last October, we’ve been eagerly waiting to hear more about the newest entry into the Le Mans ‘Garage 56’ category of vehicles. This week, Nissan finally give us a peek at the technical specs of its futuristic hybrid racer.

For those of you who don’t remember, Nissan originally unveiled the ZEOD RC under the headline that it would be the first car ever to complete a lap around the 24 Hour Le Mans circuit using only electric power. That means the car must be capable of about driving 8.5 miles at racing speeds using all-electric propulsion.

This week, we get to look under the hood of the upcoming ZEOD RC to see the mechanics behind Nissan’s ambitious endeavor. Even if you don’t follow motorsports, Nissan will eventually use lessons learned from the ZEOD RC to produce street cars (such as the BladeGlider Concept), so pay attention to what they’re doing here.

Powertrain Details for the ZEOD RC

What’ll be under the hood when the ZEOD RC takes to the track this June? A brand-new DIG-T R engine.

It’ll be a three-cylinder, turbocharged 1.5L engine with incredible efficiency. The engine itself will only weigh around 90 lbs (40kg), but will output a surprising 280lb-ft and almost exactly 400bhp. As Nissan astutely pointed out, that’s a power-to-weight ratio of 10bhp:1kg. A Nissan spokesperson elaborated, saying, “The new engine actually has a better power-to-weight ratio than the new engines to be used in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship this year.”

On top of its unprecedented efficiency, the engine is also small enough to fit into a carry-on bag – it officially measures in at 500mm x 400mm x 200mm. It’s capable of 7500 RPM, and is managed through a paddle-shift five-speed transmission together with a separate electric motor.

Speaking of its electric motor, the Japanese car maker says that they’ve borrowed heavily from the Nissan Leaf – especially from the EV’s regenerative braking system – to enable the futuristic racecar to make an entire lap on electric power. By driving 11 laps on petrol, the car will store enough energy from regular braking to allow a final 12th lap on electricity alone.

Nissan Confirms ZEOD RC for 2015 LMP1 Entry

In addition to the ZEOD’s powertrain specs, Nissan also unveiled that they plan to use all the information they’re able to gather from the car’s Le Mans 24 Hour debut in June to enter the car into the 2015 LMP1 season.

As we said in the beginning, Nissan has clearly stated that the ZEOD RC will form the foundation for commercially available vehicles. Andy Palmer has already confirmed production of the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show’s BladeGlider Concept (pictured above) for later this year, and who knows what other surprises the progressive Japanese brand has hiding up their sleeve. But, even if we don’t see street-friendly results from the ZEOD RC, the car is still an amazing accomplishment and we can’t wait to see Nissan achieve their goal at the 24 Hour Le Mans this June.