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HEROIC NISSAN DELTAWING TEAM ENDS LE MANS JOURNEY
INNOVATIVE SPORTSCAR PROVES TECHNOLOGY BUT RETIRES AFTER ACCIDENT
LE MANS, France, Saturday, 16 June, 2012: The Nissan DeltaWing, the most pioneering motorsport innovation for a generation, retired from the Le Mans 24 Hours tonight after six hours, 1005km and a valiant team effort to get the car running again.
Aiming to complete the famous French endurance race using half the amount of fuel and tyres of any other car on the grid, the Nissan DeltaWing has become a firm fan favourite and the biggest story of Le Mans 2012, thanks to its outlandish, dart-shaped design and efficiency-driven technology.
The car was running well at consistently-fast lap times when, coming out of a sustained safety car period, it was struck by a passing LMP1 runner, going off the circuit and suffering a heavy impact with the wall.
Driver, Satoshi Motoyama, struggled tirelessly for nearly 90 minutes, with massive support from his team, who joined him to give instruction from the side of the track. However, despite their amazing efforts, the damage caused by the accident proved to be too severe.
Nissan DeltaWing has captured the imagination of the media and the public alike since Nissan unveiled it in London in March. After the accident, it garnered huge support from fans on social media sites and media coverage of the project to date has been almost universally positive.
Despite a vastly condensed development schedule, including just 107 days between the car turning a wheel for the first time and the start of the race today, the team has overcome huge challenges to get the Nissan DeltaWing to Le Mans.
Darren Cox, General Manager, Nissan in Europe, was stoic: "That's motorsport - we wouldn't be doing this if we didn't understand the danger of this sort of thing happening. Initially, we were completely gutted but that feeling quickly gave way to a huge sense of pride in what we have achieved.
"There have been so many people involved in this astonishing project and, without each one of them, it would not have been possible. Everyone should celebrate the success that Nissan DeltaWing has been and feel pride in the impact it will have as a test bed for future innovations both on the road and track.
"We came here and a lot of people were not sure that this car would work but we have proven them wrong. The support for this campaign has been astounding and, from Nissan, we thank everyone who got behind us.
"I hope they continue to enjoy Le Mans weekend and all of the other activities that Nissan has brought to the 24 Hours this year."
Nissan DeltaWing completed 1005km of the race, equivalent to a regular World Endurance Championship race. During its best stint, it was running at strong LMP2 pace and its fuel usage was on course for its pre-race projection, to complete the event using half the fuel of its LMP1 contemporaries.
Motoyama said: "The whole Nissan DeltaWing project has reached an amazing feat by coming to Le Mans, and this concept has a great potential for the future of motor racing.
"It's only three months since the launch of Nissan DeltaWing, and I really feel it's an honour and I am thankful to have been a team member.
"The accident occurred in a high-speed corner and the car hit a concrete wall. It was badly damaged. If I could get the car back to the pit, the team could fix the car and rejoin the race, so I tried everything I could but, since the power train damage was particularly serious, we couldn't revive the car."
Motoyama's fellow Nissan DeltaWing driver, Michael Krumm, said: "Satoshi did everything right today; he made space to let the leaders go through but Nakajima misjudged the situation. Once he was off Satoshi did everything he could to get the Nissan DeltaWing back to the pits so the team could repair it. He was trying to take the engine cover off to get to the affected area but it wouldn't come off so he somehow managed to bend it back and climb in! It was a world champion effort as he fixed it but then when he tried to move the car he realised the steering was too damaged from the impact to continue. It's such a shame after an incredible effort from the whole team."
Nissan's Le Mans 24 Hours does not end with the retirement of the DeltaWing - In LMP2, the Greaves Motorsport and Signatech Nissan teams are deep into their race strategies now, running steadily into the night. Martin Brundle started the race for Greaves with a storming triple stint and moving up to seventh place after two hours of racing.
"The start was okay and I managed to hold position despite the fact I was being quite cautious," said Brundle. "I haven't done a full stint for a long time so starting with a triple stint really blew the cobwebs away. I can see the strategy now though; wear the old man out and then put the secret weapons - Alex and Lucas - in the car."
The No.42 Greaves Nissan suffered an alternator problem at the end of a fine run from Alex Brundle but the car was soon repaired and Lucas Ordonez took to the track. Along the pitlane at Signatech Nissan, the No.23 car has been going well, cycling through the drivers as the race fast approaches the half way mark. It was Franck Mailleux who took the start for the French squad.
"I had a fantastic start and was able to make up five positions from our grid spot, and to be in the top 20 overall," said Mailleux. "The car balance was not ideal in the first stints and I wasn't as comfortable as I had been in practice. This is possibly as a result of the slightly greener track following this morning's wet conditions, but there were definitely improvements towards the end of my third stint, just as I handed over to Olivier, as more rubber is going down on the track."
The No.23 Signatech Nissan car is currently running very strongly in 4th place with the No.42 Greaves car in 11th place in LMP2.