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The Nissan DeltaWing has retired from the Le Mans 24 Hours after its contact with the #7 Toyota in the seventh hour of the race.
The innovative machine, which had become a crowd favorite this week, suffered a few early issues but was back in the running when it was tagged by Kazuki Nakajima as the race restarted following a lengthy safety car period. The impact, which came at the Porsche Curves, shunted Satoshi Motoyama into the wall.
The Japanese driver tried in vain to repair the car trackside and the Highcroft Racing team has now called time on its efforts to bring it back to health.
“Once I was on the grass there was nothing I could do," related the disappointed Motoyama. "The crew could give me instructions, but I am the only person who can touch the car. We tried for a long time to find a way to get the car back to the pits, but the damage was just too much.
“I had two great stints and was really enjoying my time in the car. We had a really long safety car period and I was really looking forward to finishing off my last stint. I have had such a great time driving this car and I've loved working with Marino, Michael and the entire time. We have really shown what the future of sports car racing could look like – ultra-efficient. I really hope I can get the opportunity to drive the car again, because we really do have unfinished business. I am certain the car would have run for a long time if not for the contact.”
"Nakajima misjudged his timing," said Marino Franchitti, who had yet to drive the car that started the race in the hands of Michael Krumm. "One hit we could have probably coped with, but the fact that it then hit the wall was probably too much.
"It's a shame, because we had been running well, setting respectable times and things were going well. Having spent so much time developing it, I'm gutted I haven't been able to race it – that hurts."
Project designer Ben Bowlby, while acknowledging the general feeling of disappointment in the DeltaWing camp, still managed to stay positive about about his car's first race performance. The DeltaWing was completing 11-lap stints at LMP2 pace despite only having a 40-liter fuel tank and 300 horsepower.
“First of all, the concept is proven," he said. "At the end of the day, the little Nissan DeltaWing weighing only 500 kilos [1,102lbs], powered by the 300 horsepower Nissan DIG-T engine and using Michelin tires was able to run basically with half the fuel and tire consumption and yet show all of the speed of a typical Le Mans prototype.
“For all the fans who either loved it, or hated it, the journalists who wrote about and everyone who came to see it over the course of this weekend, we really appreciate everyone's interest in the car. It has been a very emotional year and a very emotional end to the race.
“But at the end of the day – it really has been a huge success. These things happen in racing and nobody got hurt. We showed an extraordinary and unbelievable concept on the track at Le Mans and the ACO provided us with a perfect setting to showcase the car's capabilities. Hats off to them for inviting us.
“It has been an incredible opportunity to showcase a car that is truly an innovative experiment," Bowlby added. "In the future, let's hope we can bring it back as a racecar, and not just an experimental vehicle. We'd love to see a future for cars of this type which are all about high efficiency, low drag, low drag and low consumption.”