June 13, 2014, 4:45 AM
There's an old adage among race-car drivers that they don't need mirrors because they don't need to know who's chasing them; they only need to know who they're chasing.
It's not true, of course. Protecting their position from whoever is trying to pass them is essential. In fact, the credit for first using a rear-view mirror goes to Ray Haroun, winner of the first Indianapolis 500in a Marmon Wasp.
Now Nissan claims its experimental ZEOD racer is the first of the modern era to run at Le Mans intentionally with no rear-view mirrors.
Audi has been using a digital image from a rear-view camera in its LMP1 race cars for a couple years – but as a supplement to external side-mirrors.
On Le Mans test day and in practice and qualifying, Nissan ZEOD drivers Wolfgang Reip and Tommy Erdos made history by completing laps without any mirrors. Because of its experimental status, the radical ZEOD was allowed to run without the external mirrors that are mandatory for every other entry in the 56-car field.
The ZEOD is equipped with a rear-facing camera that is said to provide a more comprehensive view than the mirrors.
In addition, the car has an on-board radar system that not only alerts the drivers about upcoming traffic but provides further insight on closing speed through large arrows on the screen.
The system is able to differentiate between cars that are closing fast, or those that are maintaining the distance behind or falling back. The arrows also change color depending on closing speed, so they can alert the drivers to faster LM P1 cars passing on the left or right.
"These driver assist systems are just another aspect of future technology transfers that will improve the road cars of the future," said NISMO’s global head of Brand, Marketing & Sales, Darren Cox.
Nissan already showed a similar system it called a Smart Rearview Mirror, which allows the driver to switch between an LCD monitor and a traditional rear-view mirror, on a 2014 Rogue at this year's New York International Auto Show.
The hybrid ZEOD experimental racer will attempt to be the first ever to run a full race lap of Le Mans on electric power alone.
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