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The Task Of Le Mans Begins For Nissan DeltaWing


The full Nissan DeltaWing team - Anne Proffit photo

The full Nissan DeltaWing team - Anne Proffit photo

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The sports car world is gathered in France for the 80th annual 24 Hours of Le Mans twice-around-the-clock endurance contest.

The single-day test session took place a week earlier, which relegated teams and support paddocks to the area for the duration of well over two weeks.

Scrutineering--tech inspection to those of you from North America--takes place in downtown Le Mans and is open to the public, who crowd the area to catch glimpses of the drivers and team owners (considered heroes themselves) as they go through the various stages of the technical adjustments and approvals.

It normally takes about 15 minutes to go through these procedures and then group photos are taken of the car with drivers, team personnel and, occasionally, showing the moving sculptures on their own.

This year scrutineering took place on Sunday and Monday in the Place de la Republique; the areas used in prior years are under construction. The wide plaza handily held the mass of admirers that gathered for the public display of the entries for this historic race and as the teams disgorged their cars, there was--as always--a mad rush to get close, perhaps to touch or at least get a whiff of what a team is conjuring for its many trips around the nearly 8-1/2-mile Sarthe circuit.

It rained throughout scrutineering both days but the real mash of weather didn't appear until one of the stars of the show was going through the variety of tents that make up this inspection process. That would be the Nissan DeltaWing, which needed, seemingly an hour to go through the process. The crowd waited, we photographers waited, the team waited anxiously as creator Ben Bowlby stood and watched the process unfold.

Suddenly the rain ended, the tiny black DeltaWing appeared, rolled to the photo location on casters, and the cheers went up as the crowd examined the most unusual car to be seen at Le Mans in years. In a time when sameness seems to be the element that makes up racing, here was a car that defied the term. The photos were taken, with the team, with the drivers, with those who made certain this ground-breaking No. 0 Nissan DeltaWing came to fruition.

As Bowlby told me, even though DeltaWing had been through scrutineering and examinations prior to the test day a week earlier, it was apparent the French operators from the Automobile Club de l'Ouest just had to take their time to examine the car again and again and again. Some might chalk it up to their ultimate "Frenchness", but I'd like to believe they just wanted to see the possible future of motor racing as closely as they possibly could.

The Nissan DeltaWing doesn't run this weekend for points or glory. The glory will come if it comes to the checkered flags at the end of 24 hours. But then, that's the goal for everyone, isn't it?
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