The Nissan DeltaWing scored its first ever race finish in Atlanta this weekend, taking fifth place overall in the 1000-mile Petit Le Mans race, despite starting from the back of the grid of 42 endurance racers.
The 2012 race produced what Nissan qualifies as an incredible run of results as the final round of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) also settled the scores in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS).
Nissan-powered teams took first, second and third place in the ELMS LMP2 Championship, underlining another season of domination by the Nismo-tuned Nissan VK45DE V8 engine.
The Nissan DeltaWing actually had a relatively quiet race compared to the drama of the preceding days. The car was rather rudely ejected from Wednesday’s test session when it was struck by a GTC class Porsche, which also went on to hit the Championship-leading Muscle Milk car during the race itself.
The ‘Attacked in Atlanta’ video has generated over 700,000 views on You Tube already, showing that the Nissan DeltaWing has lost none of its popularity since Le Mans.
The race was on to fix the car in time for further practice sessions on Thursday and in true endurance style the Nissan DeltaWing was soon back in action and ready for the race. Petit Le Mans really is a mini-Le Mans 24 Hours on every level.
“What I am most pleased about is that while the car obviously passed all the virtual and actual FIA crash tests prior to running at Le Mans,” said Nissan’s Darren Cox, “we’ve unfortunately tested the car in real world incidents twice now and in both cases the car has done it job in protecting the driver. We’d rather not do it again but we’ve certainly shown the concept works and it is very safe.”
Despite qualifying with a time fast enough for the top 10, Nissan’s DeltaWing was relegated to the back of the grid for the start of the race. The organizers deemed that the car should start from the back as it was an unclassified entry. While this may sound fair, the reality is that it puts the car in danger again as it has to pass the entire GT field in the opening laps and also suffers in any early safety car periods. With Wednesday’s all-nighter fresh in their minds the team did not want to see any more damage!
There was no need to worry though as the Nissan DeltaWing breezed through the 1000-mile Petit Le Mans, taking fifth place overall in the 10-hour race. Both Lucas Ordonez and Gunnar Jeannette excelled themselves, putting in clean and fast stints throughout and delivered the first race finish for the headline-grabbing car.
The opening stints were a thrill for the team who watched Gunnar climb from the 42nd place right up to eighth, then watched Lucas triple-stint his way to third.
The Nissan DeltaWing features half the weight, half the horsepower and half the aerodynamic drag of a typical Le Mans sportscar so it was no surprise to then see Gunnar complete a quadruple stint without changing tires!
“This has been an incredible journey for me,” commented Lucas after the race. “Every time I race for Nissan they give me new challenges and I think this was the biggest one yet. It certainly felt like a huge responsibility but it was also a great deal of fun. The car was fantastic to drive, Michelin did a great job with the tires and we’ve been working really hard on developing the entire package. We’ve shown everyone in motorsport that the car is really strong and fast. I’m really proud to cross the line at the finish and I’m now ready to celebrate with the guys.”
The European Le Mans Series LMP2 title went to TDS Racing, the strong French team that took pole position and victory at round one and never looked back. Oak Racing grabbed the runner up spot when a recurring starter problem ended their fight for the title, despite the team starting so well by grabbing pole position for the race. Last year’s champions Greaves Motorsport had to settle for third place in the championship after recovering to fifth place at Petit Le Mans after early race contact and a gearbox problem forced them into fight back mode for the rest of the race.