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No DeltaWing flight for Franchitti this time
17 June 2012
The Nissan DeltaWing cut an impressive figure out on track at Le Mans for the six hours and 15 minutes that it was able to run. Unfortunately, contact with one of the Totoya TS 030 - hybrid cars sent it crashing out before we got to see the revolutionary car run in the nighttime, and before Marino Franchitti got his chance to take the wheel.
"Having done all the testing of the car and then to not get to drive in the race is particularly hard," said Franchitti after the #0 Highcroft Racing team called it a day. "I am just devastated for everyone involved in the whole Nissan DeltaWing program."
The retirement came when the car was pushed off the track by the Toyota #7 of Kazuki Nakajima, and suffered a hard impact into the wall on the exit of the Porsche Curves.
"Of all the things to force us out of the race, being taken out of the race by somebody else is very tough to swallow," rued Franchitti.
Driver Satoshi Motoyama stayed with the car for 90 minutes and did everything possible to effect repairs on his own - as the current driver is the only person permitted to work on the car while out on the course - but the damage to both the right rear and front of the car was too severe for him to get it back to the pits.
"The heart Satoshi showed in trying to repair the car and get it back to the pits was amazing," said Franchitti of his team mate's efforts.
"I was trying to let the leaders by and not interfere with their race but the Toyota swung across and hit me very hard," explained Motoyama. "Once I was on the grass there was nothing I could do. The Nissan DeltaWing was in the wall very hard.
"I was very determined to try to get the car back to the pits," he continued. "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."
Motoyama had taken two stints in the car, which features half the weight, horsepower and aerodynamic drag of a typical Le Mans prototype. Prior to that, German driver Michael Krumm had been at the wheel for the first three and a half hours, which included some gearbox problems with the car's standard components.
"I had a couple of issues at the start of my time in the car, but my last two stints were really strong and felt great," said Krumm. "It is a sad way to finish the race because the car was really running strong."
The designer of the Nissan DeltaWing, Ben Bowlby, was looking more on the bright side of the day's work.
"First of all, the concept is proven," he said. "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.
"In the future lets hope we can bring it back as a race car, and not just an experimental vehicle," he continued. "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."
He added: "It has been a very emotional year and a very emotional end to the race."
But for Marino Franchitti, not even getting to turn a single lap in the DeltaWing during the Le Mans 24 Hours was a deep disappointment - albeit one that left him hungry for more opportunities to work with and to race the 'Batmobile'.
"I'm now looking to future," he confirmed. "I hope there is one because there is so much potential in this car and so much love for it that it would be a shame if this was the end of the story."
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