Sleek 'Wing brings Gotham to Le Mans


Nissan will enter the unknown when their revolutionary DeltaWing, a sleek black 'Batmobile' of a car, attempts to go the distance in the Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race this weekend.

The radical Nissan-powered racer will start the 80th edition of the sports-car classic from 29th on the grid at the Circuit de la Sarthe on Saturday afternoon.

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The radical Nissan-powered racer will start the 80th edition of the sports-car classic from 29th on the grid at the Circuit de la Sarthe on Saturday afternoon.

The dark night lies ahead for the US-built machine and the worry, only 100 days since the DeltaWing made its track debut in March, is that it will not make it to the finish of the race.

“We're completely into the unknown.”

British driver Marino Franchitti, younger brother of Indy 500 winner Dario and cousin of Formula One racer Paul di Resta, sid on Friday: “Every part on this car is new, hence the reason we're not sure about the durability.

“We've done complete stints, we think we know the tyre life but putting that all together in a race situation, we are going into the unknown - but that's part of the excitement.”

The DeltaWing may look like something off the streets of Gotham City, Batman's fictional home, but even without its Hollywood tag it has lapped up the limelight at Le Mans.

The black-and-white car has a long, thin 'fuselage' uncluttered by aerodynamic wings and which narrows to four-inch Michelin tyres at the front.

The car is also half the weight, half the horsepower and uses half the fuel and tyre consumption of a typical Le Mans prototype.

Whether the DeltaWing reaches the chequered flag or not, it will not be classified as it does not conform to the 2012 regulations and is running at the event as a guest entry - occupying 'Garage 56' in a 55-car field.

Michael Krumm qualified the DeltaWing in 29th with a best time of three minutes, 42.612 seconds on Thursday.

The German felt he could have pushed the car into the three minutes 30-second region - good enough to put the concept car inside the top 10 - if he had not hit a kerb in the second session and triggered the car's on-board fire extinguisher.

He said: “It's a miracle that we are actually here and we are running pretty steady - but the speed is pretty impressive.”

Former F1 driver and 1990 Le Mans winner Martin Brundle commented on the DeltaWing: “I was amazed to hear it could do low three minute 30s. I think that would be scary.

“That would be too fast.”

“It's good to see new barriers and concepts being broken because that's what moves things on, it's interesting for the business, the sport and the fans,” added the Briton.

Brundle is also part of the Nissan 2012 stable and is competing in Le Mans for the first time with his son Alex, 21. The Brundles share a Nissan-powered Zytek Z11SN with Spanish gamer-turned-driver Lucas Ordonez in the LMP2 category.

Brundle will drive the first race stint just in front of the DeltaWing from 28th on the grid.

“Anybody who wins this class could end up in the top 10,” he said Brundle. “We've got a sprint race going on for 24 hours - it's going to be a busy time.”

The race at the circuit 185km south-west of Paris will start on Saturday at 1500 South African standard time. - Reuters

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