Special to Highlands Today
The revolutionary Nissan DeltaWing completed its first running on the famous 8.5 mile Circuit de la Sarthe on Sunday – the home of the upcoming 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Invited to compete under the Automobile Club de l'Ouest's "Garage 56" classification that showcases new and innovative technology, the Nissan DeltaWing completed 54 laps with drivers Michael Krumm, Satoshi Motoyama and Marino Franchitti at the wheel.
The team enjoyed a virtually trouble-free day and completed every lap but one on a single set of Michelin slick tires. A sole lap on wet tires during a brief rain shower was the only time the team switched tires all day.
"We've certainly had a very productive day and it has been great to get so many laps under our belt," Franchitti said. "Other than the one lap I did on wets, we spent the entire day on a single set of Michelin tires which is quite amazing. I've really been looking forward to driving the car and it didn't disappoint. We gathered a lot of data which we'll examine over the next week and work on making the car even better."
Motoyama completed the fastest lap of the day at 3 minutes, 47.980 seconds. The Nissan DeltaWing technical, team led by concept originator Ben Bowlby, believe they are comfortably within reach of their target pace of 3 minutes, 45 seconds as requested by race officials.
With Motoyama not having raced at Le Mans since 1999 and Krumm since 2005, both drivers had to complete a mandatory 10 laps to qualify for the race.
"It has been 13 years since I raced here and I was a little nervous before today as I had to try to remember everything about the circuit," Motoyama said. "But it was a very good test today and everything went far better than I expected. There are fans around the world who are eagerly awaiting the chance to see this car run at Le Mans. That does provide a bit of added pressure but I am really looking to the race and it is great to be back at Le Mans again."
Both easily achieved that goal, Motoyama completing 19 laps and Krumm, 24. With Marino Franchitti handling most of the pre-event testing and development, the Scottish racer only handled 11 laps today – the team taking the opportunity to get his Japanese and German teammates more accustomed with the car.
Krumm was the first man to drive the car before handing over to Motoyama who completed the morning session. Franchitti kicked off the afternoon running which include the sole lap on wet Michelin tires before continuing the driver rotation to Krumm and Motoyama who closed out the day.
"The car feels great around here," Krumm said. "I was a little concerned about how the Nissan DeltaWing would feel through the Porsche Curves but it is absolutely fantastic and very stable. You can push really hard – so much fun to drive. I can't wait for the race."
The unique Nissan DeltaWing features half the weight, half the horsepower and half the aerodynamic drag of a typical prototype and is expected to enjoy significantly lower tire and fuel consumption.
Powered by a 300 horsepower 1.6 liter Nissan DIG-T turbocharged engine, the Nissan DeltaWing also features specially developed Michelin tires which are four inches wide at the front.
The team will now return to the UK to complete final preparations for the 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team transporter will return over the weekend before the car goes through pre-event tech inspection in downtown Le Mans at the Place de la Republique.
Official practice kicks off on Wednesday.