Marino Franchitti tests the Nissan DeltaWing - Highcroft Racing photoEnlarge Photo
The Nissan DeltaWing sports racer that occupies the 56th garage at this year's 80th 24 Hours of Le Mans began its European preparations with a wet test at the Snetterton circuit In Norfolk, UK on Tuesday, April 17. Scot Marino Franchitti and German Michael Krumm had the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the handling characteristics of the new car under what could only be considered adverse conditions.
Steady rain throughout the morning session allowed the team to undertake wet weather development with tire partner Michelin, utilizing the benefits of the DeltaWing's light weight and low horsepower, accompanied by similar reductions in aerodynamic drag - as compared to a similar Le Mans prototype. The Nissan DeltaWing uses a 1.6-liter turbocharged direct injection engine.
Darren Cox, Nissan's European general manager remarked, "The whole Nissan DeltaWing team is still on a massive learning curve. Testing in the States was a stable, predictable way of doing the initial groundwork, but this exciting car is going to be racing in the French countryside," he reminded. "Today, the whole team got a taste of the conditions they may well face on June 16-17. It may not have been much fun in the Norfolk rain, but it's about the best thing that could have happened for a project and a car that will face an enormous challenge just to make the end of the race."
Garage 56 at Le Mans is reserved for technically advanced vehicles only; the Nissan DeltaWing is racing this June for pride, not points, as it attempts to redefine what a racing car can be in these times of dwindling reserves and environmental consciousness.
Marino Franchitti drove during the morning practice, in conditions that ranged from damp to fully wet weather. He gathered information on how the car performs under these circumstances, after having used an artificially dampened Sebring track last month. "Mother Nature really did us a favor today, because it was great to get another run in the wet," Franchitti acknowledged.
"I basically got monsoon conditions and Michael got to try the car on a drying track. It was a very good test for the car and the tires. The day allowed us to try the wet tires in a real world situation - we didn't have to wet the track at all. The day has really given us some important data and provided Michelin with some clear direction for future development," Franchitti continued. "The engine and gearbox were really strong - it was a proper testing day when we were really able to get down to business, doing damper work, brake work - all in all, it was a very positive test and we're now very much looking forward to the next run."
Michael Krumm was able to test in the afternoon with drying conditions easing his load. The team worked on suspension adjustments, brake and gearbox improvements on the Ben Bowlby-designed race car with the German. "The guys have done a great job with the car since the Sebring tests," he said. "Even though the conditions were quite damp today and we really didn't get a proper run in the dry, I am really pleased with how the car felt.
"We've made some changes including the steering, which is now a lot better. Everyone was wondering whether it would turn - in fact it probably turned too well and we have made some improvements in that area," Krumm noted. "It is great to kick off the European testing because Le Mans is looming fast. Sebring was obviously a lot warmer and sunnier, but the conditions today could be exactly like what you face at Le Mans sometimes. We now know what to expect."