and, most recently, the mad front-driven
GT-R LM NISMO
LMP1 car, Nissan has forged something of a reputation for 'out there' racing concepts. OK, so they perhaps haven't set the racing world alight in terms of results, the real work of earning trophies still resting with its regular LMP2 and GT3 cars. But the emotional appeal and boundary pushing design has certainly earned respect.
And now it looks like we're getting a road car inspired by the arrow-shaped concept and turned real by Nissan before the brand was sold on to Don Panoz. Clearly Nissan hasn't entirely surrendered its emotional link to the Deltawing though, the BladeGlider taking the distinctive look and turning into a roadgoing concept with a McLaren F1-style seating configuration of central driver's seat flanked by two passengers. Electric power developed with Williams Advanced Engineering takes the BladeGlider from show concept and into a driveable form. But will Nissan ever build it? And if so, when?
We had 15 minutes on the phone with Nissan's Global Head of Marketing and Brand Strategy Roel de Vries to try and find out more...
Motorsport a big part of de Vries' role
What's your role and involvement with the BladeGlider?
"My background is branding and marketing, with one of my responsibilities being auto shows. Together with design and engineering we look at messages we want to share. I also look after motorsport so I was part of the discussion when we went to Tokyo with the [BladeGlider] concept. And we wanted to make a study into how this could be made into a real running model, so we decided to make two operating versions."
So have you driven it yet?
"I have been to Williams a couple of times during the project but not when there was a working model I am afraid. I am looking forward to driving it though!"
Obviously Deltawing as a brand is now in new hands but how much emotional ownership does Nissan have of the concept?
"We feel strong ownership. You know the idea of playing around with different configurations and packaging has been going on for a long time and when Deltawing went to Le Mans with the race car we were inspired into talking about whether this could go beyond a racing car and what you could do. Then we combined that with electric vehicles and then you can see the project diverged and we had the ZEOD, which was the first car to drive a lap of Le Mans under electric power. And we started looking at what this could mean for a future sports car that could create a new driving sensation. At the back of the car it says 'Inspired by Deltawing' and I think that is a fair statement."
So has Ben Bowlby worked on BladeGlider?
"He is not involved at the moment, no."
Obviously this is a long-term project, but what kind of car is the future owner of a product like the BladeGlider driving now?
"The study looked at the future of the young generation growing up now and into the fun performance cars, which goes back to our heritage whether you consider Skylines, GT-Rs, the Z models - many things we have done as a brand in our history. So we looked at how we could frame a new concept of packaging design, how could we bring that together, how could we make that for young people. If we make this kind of vehicle it would be very different but I guess you would be looking at drivers of small sports cars, hot hatches, these kind of vehicles. But you will not see a production version in two or three years, it's a real study and one of the reasons to do this is to evaluate and to test, we want people like you to write about it, drive it, talk about it and see what the experience is. It is fun to drive, it is future technology, it is clean - what you experience is unique for the driver, for all passengers."
Nissan has form with wacky racers!
So it has harnesses and is a sports car with track potential; given this kind of driving is much more energy intensive than city driving, in an electric car how would it work? Would you have interchangeable battery packs so you could have one charging in the pits when you were out driving?
"At the moment the intention of this vehicle is this car goes on the track, it's a performance car but the intention is to see how we could look at packaging technology and design for a real car. So we are not looking at the battery packs for track use. We have two vehicles, so when we do events we can drive longer so it's a practical reason. But the study itself is about how technology could be used."
From Deltawing to ZEOD we've seen Nissan pushing the boundaries on track; does this represent a shift of this focus from motorsport to road cars?
"I think motorsports has a very big role to play for testing, to evaluate things, to look at future technology so I think the fact our motorsport inspires our road cars is one of the reasons to do motorsports. So it's a healthy link and that's the role of motorsports - it's real usage, it's real engineering and a good platform to test these things. Also as you would have seen we have taken the NISMO brand to road cars and we are studying at the moment quite a few additional NISMO models."