Signature Nissan LMP2 – Click above for high-res image gallery

Could this be the first encouraging sign of Japanese automakers returning for international motor racing? The past few years saw such giants as Toyota and Honda pulling out of Formula One and Subaru withdrawing from the World Rally Championship – their places taken up by rivals from outside Japan and independent privateer teams. But now Nissan has announced plans to return to Le Mans and its associated series with a new LMP2 program.

The effort involves Nissan providing Nismo-tuned VK45V8 engines to Signature. The French racing team will be running the engines in an LMP2 prototype in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, including the headline 24 Hours of Le Mans as well as Sebring. Although the driver lineup isn't due to be announced for a few weeks yet, the team has already retained Formula 3 driver Franck Mailleux for the job.

Nissan and Signature aim to finish at Le Mans and hopefully score a podium finish sometime during the season. To check out the computer renderings of the car with which they hope to do so, click the thumbnails below to skip to our high-resolution image gallery, and scope out the official announcement after the jump.

[Source: Nissan]
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Japanese Car Giant to Supply Engines to Top LMS RacingTeam

Rolle, February 9th 2011– Nissan International SA announced today an exclusive two-year official partnership with Signature Racing, part of the France-based Signature Group. The agreement brings together Nissan and Signature on the race track in the new Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC), with Nissan providing the team its NISMO tuned VK45V8 engines for the LMP2 class.

Nissan's heritage of technical innovation and excellence finds a natural place in the arena of International Motorsports where the company has a rich history of competition spanning over 70 years and encompassing everything from International rallying to Touring Cars, Le Mans, the Daytona 24 hours and the FIA GT1 championship.

Announcing the new agreement, Vincent Wijnen, Nissan Vice-President, Strategy and Marketing, said "Nissan is very happy to announce our new partnership with Signature and we look forward to working with such a professional and well respected team. I know our customers, fans and dealers will be following our progress when we start racing in March and will of course be anticipating our return to the Le Mans 24 hours."

Beginning with their first race under the banner of 'Signatech Nissan' in the ILMC on March 19th in Sebring, USA, the Signature Racing team will be powered for the first time by Nissan's engines.

Philippe Sinault, CEO of Signature Group, added "We are delighted to team-up with such an innovative car manufacturer. Nissan's engine know how will be crucial to the overall performance of the car, and we are sure this partnership will be hugely successful."

Although the official race car livery and full driver line-up for the new season will be announced over the coming weeks, F3 star Franck Mailleux has been confirmed for the ILMC and Le Mans24 Hours.

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