There were mixed emotions for the Nissan DeltaWing crew in first qualifying at Le Mans after the car showed impressive pace before being brought to an early halt when the car's on-board fire extinguisher went off.
Michael Krumm posted a time of 3m42.612s before an impact with a kerb caused the extinguisher to go off, which in turn shut down the electrics. The car was returned to parc ferme but was not allowed to go back out.
“Unfortunately I made a mistake in Tertre Rouge when I hit the kerb too hard and the fire extinguisher went off and it shut down the car,” said German pilot Krumm.
“But until then the car felt absolutely fantastic. We made the right choices on changes to the set-up after the practice session. The car felt much easier to drive and it was exciting to see the lap times drop more and more. We were able to prove that the car can be really fast and that is a big important step for us. It was an important box for us to tick that we could do low 40s and I think we can get into the high 30s as well.
“The team did a great job to get the car where it is now and now we keep our fingers crossed that it doesn't rain tomorrow. Most important thing is we know the car can do what we expected it to do and now we have to make sure we can all get our qualifying laps in at night.”
Japan's Satoshi Motoyama had posted the fastest time for the car during the earlier practice session.
“I was very comfortable in the car during my practice session stint and was able to reel of a series of fast laps,” he said. “The car kept getting better and better with every lap.
“We were all looking forward to seeing what the Nissan DeltaWing would do during the night session and Michael was doing a brilliant job out there. What happened with the fire extinguisher was really unfortunate but it is much better to find out these issues today than during the race.
“Everyone on the team has been doing a great job and I think there is still a lot of time to be found in the car. The key tomorrow will be for everyone to get their night laps done and keep working on making the car reliable.”
Marino Franchitti, who was the first of the drivers to take the wheel in practice, said: “It is better to find these issues now than find out about them in the race. Obviously it was disappointing not to be able to run the entire session but I'd rather be able to fix it now than have something like that put us out the race on Saturday.
“To see the speed that Michael had at the beginning of qualifying was just fantastic. Hopefully Satoshi and I can get another run tomorrow night but it is certainly nice to see the Nissan DeltaWing show more and more performance every time we run.”
Ben Bowlby, Designer and Concept Originator, commented: “It has been an evening of highs and lows. On one hand it was great to see the looks on the driver's faces grinning from ear to ear when they got out the car and have them tell you 'this car is absolutely awesome', but it is another thing to have the master switch trigger when the fire extinguisher goes off accidentally when you clip a kerb.
“It is a terrible shame because I think we could have ended up at the top of the LMP2 class which is exactly where we are meant to be. It is very gratifying that the car has that type of performance and I know the team will all pull together and tomorrow we'll get the guys qualified. Whether it is wet or dry we'll do whatever it takes and we'll be ready for the race.”
Darren Cox, General Manager, Nissan in Europe, added: “What happened to the Nissan DeltaWing tonight is something that could have happened to any car on the grid. We have only had 100 days to develop this car so this kind of problem is exactly the kind of little issue we haven’t had time to spot.
“We’re very disappointed but, at the ACO test two weeks ago, we proved the car is reliable. Tonight, we proved that it’s fast, too.”