The Nissan DeltaWing squad left Road Atlanta with a feeling of "mission accomplished" after going the distance at Petit Le Mans. The team not only completed the 1000-mile journey at Road Atlanta, but American Gunnar Jeannette and Spaniard Lucas Ordonez demonstrated impressive pace throughout the race to finish fifth overall.
Running unclassified as an invitational entry for the final round of the American Le Mans Series, the Nissan DeltaWing team were forced to start off the back of the grid and subsequently lost additional track position by missing out on a number safety car "wave-arounds" throughout the race. The unique 1.6-liter Nissan DIG-T turbocharged-powered machine eventually crossed the line three laps down from the P2 class-winning car.
“I'm super proud to be involved in a program like this," enthused Jeannette. "The Nissan DeltaWing was amazing all day long – we were able to triple-stint our Michelin tires and the car literally performed flawlessly, as did the crew.
"I'm very happy where we ended up, but it would have been nice to be running as an official entry and not gotten so many P2 cars waved by us under yellow, especially after we started at the back. We showed what we were capable of today and we certainly made a lot of people happy to see the car run. I've seen Ben (Bowlby, DeltaWing designer) smile a lot with this program over the past few weeks but I've never seen him smile this big as he is right now."
Jeannette started the race for the team and immediately began a charge through the pack, passing eight cars on the opening lap. By the time he handed over to Ordoñez, the No. 0 car had moved up to eigth position out of the 42 car field. The Spaniard took over and completed a triple stint, handing back to Jeannette from third-place overall. The American then completed a quadruple stint without changing tires.
Ordonez took over for the final 110 laps, bringing the car across the line in sixth place. The team gained a further position after the checkered flag when a P2 car was excluded due to a driver exceeding the maximum drive time permitted.
"It was a great job by all the team and everyone has worked so hard all week," said Ordonez. "There has been so much work put into developing this car – and then after the crash this week made for even more work.
"We've shown everyone in motorsport that the car is really strong and fast. We're here with a new concept of half the weight, half the power and half the aerodynamic drag, but with pace that is very comparable to the P2 cars."
Bowlby, too, basked in the car's speed and reliability.
"It is amazing what has happed in 12 months. This was our goal, to finish our first endurance race," he said. "This is the first one we've finished and it is only our second race. The guys did an incredible job. Gunnar and Lucas were awesome and they drove drove its guts out. In fact, if you look at the lack of wave-arounds we had, we really had a very competitive race.
"It was the next step for the Nissan DeltaWing and it is still surprising us all. To have reliability like that was really quite incredible – it didn't skip a beat."
DeltaWing partner and ALMS founder Dr. Don Panoz noted that the level of fan interest in the car matched that at its debut at Le Mans in June, and underscored that he hopes to have the car back as a classified runner next year.
"The crowd reaction here at Road Atlanta was also great to see," said Panoz. "The car was certainly an amazing favorite with huge numbers of people wanting to get a closer look – especially on the pre-race grid walk.
"There is no doubt there is certainly a lot of interest from the fans in seeing this car race again soon."