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The unique Nissan DeltaWing passed more important tests Thursday night in preparation for its race debut in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, shaking off a couple more technical bugs in the process.
While the team flirted with setting fast times around the 8.5 mile Circuit de la Sarthe last night, tonight's final pair of two-hour qualifying sessions were totally dedicated to race preparation.
“Everything went according to plan today. We had one job to do – to qualify the three drivers – and we did that with ease," related general manager Darren Cox. “We even had a chance to do some work on setting the car up and we discovered that it was very easy to find time in the car and make it easy to drive.
“Getting the car into the race is a success in itself. Lots of people said we couldn't do this but, when we line up on the grid on Saturday, we will have earned the right to do so, so we're all very happy.”
The drivers still had to complete their mandatory “night” laps because Wednesday night's first qualifying session was cut short when the car's on-board fire extinguisher went off after the car struck a curb. As part of the safety systems built into the car, the extinguisher activation instantly shuts down the electronics. The night session also provided the opportunity to test the car's unique lighting system in night conditions. The Nissan DeltaWing features four lighting pods – two in the nose and one each on the rear wheel arch of the car.
“We got our night laps in and worked very hard on the racecar – not a qualifying car," said Marino Franchitti. "We didn't concentrate on qualifying speed at all – it was about race preparation.
“We do have some brake issues, which we are working through. We found some solutions at the end and Michael's pace in the dark was good. We learned a great deal tonight."
DeltaWing designer Ben Bowlby explained that the braking issue required a bit more analysis.
“We had a few silly issues with bleeding the brakes. We have some part of the system that is introducing air that we haven't identified," he related. “The hydraulic system is one part of the car that is certainly not an innovation, but it is causing us trouble.
“This is not your normal 24-hour race – it really is special. It will be very interesting in the race. I don't have great expectations as to how we will go, because there are a load of simple things that can go wrong. On the other hand, we might surprise some people. We know the car can be very fast, we know it is very efficient and we know it races extremely well in traffic amongst other cars. Saturday, it will be time to get stuck in and see what happens.”