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When it comes to maneuvering a 200-mile-per-hour racecar, auto engineers tend to hew to a long-held belief: Rear-wheel drive is better than front-wheel drive for handling and weight distribution. Nissan’s new GT-R LM Nismo may turn that notion on its head. It’s the only front-wheel-drive racer in the elite LM P1 prototype class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans World Endurance Championship, which starts June 13, in Le Mans, France.

Nissan engineers placed the GT-R’s twin-turbo V6 engine up front to shift the weight there. It’s a counterintuitive approach: Engineers typically distribute weight evenly for balanced handling. But behind the GT-R’s engine sits a kinetic energy recovery system (ERS), which captures energy during braking and stores it for later use. Most teams in the LM P1 class employ ERS for added horsepower and acceleration, but Nissan’s team found a clever way to exploit it.

Moving the engine forward makes the front brakes work harder. That creates more kinetic energy to harvest and could boost the car’s chances of winning. But the biggest payoff could come offtrack, when Nissan applies the same technology to increase acceleration and fuel economy in its production vehicles.

Other Car News You Should Care About

1. At the CyberAuto Challenge in February, a 14-year-old hacked a car using $15 worth of Radio Shack computer parts. The stunt, put on by auto parts maker Delphi, shows how vulnerable cars with cloud-based navigation and infotainment systems have become.

2. The United Kingdom will see the first driverless cars on public streets this year, when Oxford University begins testing a modified Nissan Leaf. The move puts the U.K. ahead of the U.S., where public testing is bogged down in bureaucratic red tape.

3. The Intelligent Damage Detection System being developed by German parts supplier Hella uses small piezoelectric sensors placed behind auto body panels. The sensors generate an electric charge under pressure, indicating when the vehicle’s shell takes damage.

4. Auto parts supplier Continental is building an augmented reality app to guide mechanics through problems. The tablet app connects wirelessly to a car and walks a user through diagnosis and repair. Continental expects the tool to be available in late 2016.

Car Design Of The Month: Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6

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Photo Courtesy of Bentley

This two-seat concept car heralds big change for Bentley, especially after two years of incremental improvements. It’s a reinterpretation of Bentley’s traditional styling–for example, the grille is set lower and squared off–and modernizes the cockpit with a high-resolution touchscreen. It also uses new manufacturing techniques, such as 3D metal printing, for the front grille mesh, tailpipes, and door handles.

This article was originally published in the May 2015 issue of Popular Science, under the title “A 1,250 Horsepower Monster.”

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