Nissan DeltaWing shows great pace in Le Mans qualifying
LE MANS, FRANCE, Wednesday, June 13, 2012: The Nissan DeltaWing showed impressive pace in qualifying for the 80th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France tonight however its assault on
the timesheet was unfortunately "extinguished" early.
With German Michael Krumm at the wheel, the Nissan DeltaWing had already improved on its earlier practice session time to stop the clocks at 3 minutes, 42.612 seconds. Krumm was confident of breaking into the "30s" until the car's on-board fire extinguisher went off after striking a kerb at Tertre Rouge - simultaneously shutting down the car's electrical system.
The Nissan DeltaWing was brought back to parc ferme near the pits but race officials did not permit the car to be returned to the pit lane where the crew could have cleaned the car and returned it to track action.
During the earlier practice session, Japanese driver Satoshi Motoyama recorded the fastest time of the session at 3:43.576. Teammate Marino Franchitti also drove the car - becoming the first man to pilot the unique machine in an official session.
The Nissan DeltaWing is competing in this year's race after being invited to fill the "Garage 56" spot reserved for entries showcasing new technology previously unseen at Le Mans. The car features half the weight, half the horsepower, half the aerodyanic drag and half the fuel and tire consumption of a typical Le Mans prototype.
The project has pulled together the likes of concept originator Ben Bowlby; American Le Mans Series founder, Don Panoz; American racing legend and All American Racers founder, Dan Gurney; two-time ALMS championship-winning team owner, Duncan Dayton; concept patron and multiple Indy 500 and IndyCar championship winning team owner, Chip Ganassi; the world's leading tire manufacturer, Michelin and innovative auto manufacturer Nissan.
The car is powered by a 300 horsepower, 1.6 liter Nissan DIG-T engine and equipped with unique Michelin tires - the front tires being only four inches wide.
The Nissan DeltaWing team also welcomed the arrival tonight of members of Gurney's All American Racers organization who built the car in California. Led by AAR President, Justin Gurney, the AAR team has travelled to France to see the car race for the first time.
The team will have an additional four hours of qualifying tomorrow night from 7:00 to 9:00pm and 10:00pm to Midnight.
While tonight's session was cut short, Krumm, Franchitti and Motoyama will get the chance to complete their mandatory five laps at night during qualifying.
"Unfortunately I made a mistake in Tertre Rouge when I hit the kerb too hard and the fire extinguisher went off and it shut down the car.
"But until then the car felt absolutely fantastic. We made the right choices on changes to the set-up after the practice session.
"The car felt much easier to drive and it was exciting to see the lap times drop more and more.
"We were able to prove that the car can be really fast and that is a big important step for us. It was an important box for us to tick that we could do low 40s and I think we can get into the high 30s as well.
"The team did a great job to get the car where it is now and now we keep our fingers crossed that it doesn't rain tomorrow.
"Most important thing is we know the car can do what we expected it to do and now we have to make sure we can all get our qualifying laps in at night."
"I was very comfortable in the car during my practice session stint and was able to reel of a series of fast laps.
"The car kept getting better and better with every lap.
"We were all looking forward to seeing what the Nissan DeltaWing would do during the night session and Michael was doing a brilliant job out there.
"What happened with the fire extinguisher was really unfortunate but it is much better to find out these issues today than during the race.
"Everyone on the team has been doing a great job and I think there is still a lot of time to be found in the car. The key tomorrow will be for everyone to get their night laps done and keep working on making the car reliable"
"It is better to find these issues now than find out about them in the race.
"Obviously it was disappointing not to be able to run the entire session but I'd rather be able to fix it now than have something like that put us out the race on Saturday.
"To see the speed that Michael had at the beginning of qualifying was just fantastic.
"Hopefully Satoshi and I can get another run tomorrow night but it is certainly nice to see the Nissan DeltaWing show more and more performance every time we run.
"Everything is so new that we are still finding little things like this.
"It is much better to find these things now as it will make us much stronger for the race."
"It has been an evening of highs and lows. On one hand it was great to see the looks on the driver's faces grinning from ear to ear when they got out the car and have them tell you ‘this car is absolutely awesome, but it is another thing to have the master switch trigger when the fire extinguisher goes off accidentally when you clip a kerb.
"It is a terrible shame because I think we could have ended up at the top of the LMP2 class which is exactly where we are meant to be.
"It is very gratifying that the car has that type of performance and I know the team will all pull together and tomorrow we'll get the guys qualified.
"Whether it is wet or dry we'll do whatever it takes and we'll be ready for the race."
Darren Cox, General Manager, Nissan in Europe
"What happened to the Nissan DeltaWing tonight is something that could have happened to any car on the grid.
"We have only had 100 days to develop this car so this kind of problem is exactly the kind of little issue we haven't had time to spot.
"We're very disappointed but, at the ACO test two weeks ago, we proved the car is reliable. Tonight, we proved that it's fast, too."