Veteran motorsports journalist Jeremy Shaw, a regular contributor to RACER magazine, was on assignment at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for both Eurosport TV and Radio Le Mans.
I had been asked to write a few notes “from the Radio Le Mans booth” during the Le Mans 24 Hours but I'm afraid I simply ran out of time. Plus, in fact, I was rarely in the booth. The assignment from my regular ESPN3/American Le Mans Series co-commentator and RLM principal John Hindhaugh called for me to be patrolling the pit lane with a radio microphone, so I spent much of my time talking to people and wandering around the pit garages (wearing a very comfortable Sparco firesuit, I might add) with no regular access to my computer. Most enjoyable.
In addition, I had a prior agreement with Eurosport to be a part of a commentary team which also provided complete, uninterrupted television coverage of the 80th running of the French endurance classic. For Eurosport, I was situated in a booth overlooking the Ford Chicane.
As you might imagine, I was a bit busy. So I thought I would tap out some reflections on the race after the dust had settled and the champagne had finished flowing. Hey, I was in France, and hardly likely to turn down an offer yesterday evening from another Radio Le Mans partner – Nissan Europe's Darren Cox – to join some of the Nissan teams in a post-race party at a suite overlooking the Dunlop Curves. Yes, thank you, I had a great time!
The party provided a wonderful opportunity to unwind and compare notes with a variety of interesting people. Several drivers were present, including my old friend Martin Brundle, who finished eighth in the hotly contested LMP2 class with his 21-year-old son Alex and GT Academy winner Lucas Ordonez, from Spain. Nissan DeltaWing designer Ben Bowlby was there too, along with Justin Gurney, whose All American Racers company, based in Santa Ana, Calif., built the unique vehicle that competed as an invitational entry, and his father Dan's long-serving executive assistant, Kathy Weida.
The DeltaWing was clearly a fan favorite. It was therefore especially disappointing to see the bizarre-looking machine sidelined by an incident when Satoshi Motoyama was inadvertently punted off the road – ironically by fellow Japanese driver Kazuki Nakajima aboard one of the massively impressive and similarly innovative Toyota TS030 Hybrids. These two cars were comfortably the most interesting among the 56-car field, in terms of their technology, and both created quite an impression. It was unfortunate that Marino Franchitti – who had done most of the DeltaWing's testing – never got to drive the car in the race because the team didn't opt to start with single stints.
I will admit to having reservations about the relevance of the DeltaWing at such a prestigious event, since it was present merely on an invitational basis and didn't conform to the regulations of any of the World Endurance Championship's regular categories. Nevertheless, I do appreciate Bowlby's concept of promoting efficiency by attempting to compete against traditional equipment with a car boasting half the weight, horsepower and drag of a conventional sports prototype.
I applaud, too, the magnificent effort put forth by AAR, RML (which supplied the Nissan-badged, 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and oversaw the car during its brief development and race debut) and Michelin along with project partners Duncan Dayton (Highcroft Racing), Don Panoz and Chip Ganassi.