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The combustion engine of the hybrid-powered Nissan ZEOD RC will weigh 40kg and produce 294kW and 380Nm when the racer hits the Circuit de la Sarthe in June at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours.

Measuring 500mm tall, 400mm long and 200mm wide in base form, the new turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol unit develops (for comparison’s sake) 24kW more than the 4.0-litre six-cylinder-powered Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo and 29kW more than the world’s most powerful production four-cylinder engine, the Mercedes-Benz 2.0-litre turbo used in its A45, CLA45 and GLA45 AMG models. It also matches the 3.8-litre six-cylinder found in the Porsche 911 Carrera S (manual).

Revving to 7500rpm, Nissan claims the new engine, in terms of power per kilogram, even pips the new turbocharged 1.6-litre V6 engines set to race in this year’s Formula One season.

Co-developed by French lubricants manufacturer Total, the Nissan DIG-T R three-cylinder will team with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery technology borrowed from the Nissan Leaf EV to power its wheels via a five-speed transmission.

Aside from using the ZEOD RC as a development platform for an LMP1 class racecar planned to tackle the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), Nissan global motorsport director Darren Cox says production cars will also benefit.

“Lessons learned from the development of the engine will be seen in Nissan road cars of the future,” Cox said.

“Nissan will become the first major manufacturer to use a three-cylinder engine in major international motorsport.

“Our aim is to set new standards in efficiency in regards to every aspect of the car – powertrain, aerodynamics and handling.”

Claimed to be capable of speeds in excess of 300km/h, the Nissan ZEOD RC will make its racing debut at Le Mans on June 14 – competing in the ‘Garage 56’ category for racing cars showcasing innovative technology – where Nissan says it will become the first entry of the French endurance race to complete a lap of the famous 13.6km circuit powered solely by electric propulsion.

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