Nissan and NISMO have announced that their Japanese Super GT star, Satoshi Motoyama, will be the third driver in the ground-breaking Nissan DeltaWing Le Mans 24 Hours race car.
NISMO driver and triple Super GT champion, Motoyama, will join Briton Marino Franchitti and German Michael Krumm, who won the 2003 JGTC (currently SUPER GT) title with Motoyama.
The Nissan DeltaWing is an experimental project that aims to change the face of endurance racing by attempting to complete the famous French round-the-clock race using half the fuel and half the number of tyres compared to conventional rivals.
Motoyama got his first taste of the innovative Nissan DeltaWing car at Snetterton circuit in Norfolk, UK, yesterday and will now work with the rest of the team as it continues its challenging journey to Le Mans on June 16/17.
Motoyama said: “I am very excited about joining the Nissan DeltaWing project for this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours and would like to thank Nissan, NISMO and the other DeltaWing partners for giving me this great opportunity.
“For me, it will be the first Le Mans 24 Hours since 1999, but I am fully ready to race at La Sarthe this year. Nissan DeltaWing is very innovative and beyond any racing technical regulations; we will run in the discretionary “Garage 56” class at Le Mans, where no classification will be given. But there will be no disappointment and compromise, since our aim for this project is to prove this innovative racing technology and demonstrate the future of motorsports. It will be a truly challenging and exciting experience for me and the team.
“Along with Michael Krumm, my fellow partner in SUPER GT and Marino Franchitti, I am really looking forward to driving the car at Le Mans, and showing everyone what Nissan DeltaWing can do. As usual, I appreciate all the support from great fans.”
The experimental nature of the Nissan DeltaWing project presents an enormous challenge to the engineering team. A group of key partners, comprising designer Ben Bowlby, American motorsport entrepreneur Don Panoz, Dan Gurney’s All-American Racers organisation and Duncan Dayton’s Highcroft Racing team, created the fascinating DeltaWing prototype.
It is now down to the full Nissan DeltaWing team to attempt to take the car through the world’s most gruelling 24-hour race, using Nissan’s specially-developed 1.6-litre DIG-T engine, just 101 days after the car hit the race track for the very first time.
Motoyama is a long-time Nissan driver, having first raced for the manufacturer in 1996. He has won more SUPER GT championship titles, race wins and series points than any other driver in the history of the category. He currently shares the NISMO #23 Nissan GT-R with his DeltaWing team-mate, Michael Krumm.
Shoichi Miyatani, President of Nissan Motorsports International Co. Ltd (NISMO), said: “I am even more excited about the Nissan DeltaWing program now that Satoshi Motoyama and Michael Krumm, the two best racers from the current Nissan NISMO SUPER GT squad, will drive the most innovative and exciting car at the French classic.
“In the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours, two out of three LMP1 winning drivers were regular SUPER GT drivers – Benoit Treluyer, ex-NISMO SUPER GT driver being one of them. Being the most successful current SUPER GT drivers, Satoshi and Michael will know how to be successful at Le Mans. As well as watching those LMP2 cars powered by Nissan and NISMO, I am also looking forward to observing how the Nissan DeltaWing will amaze everyone at Le Mans.”
Darren Cox, General Manager, Nissan in Europe, said:
“I am proud to welcome Motoyama-san to our team. The addition of Motoyama-san continues to show the international nature of this project – the prototype was developed in the USA; Nissan’s lead engineer is a Brazilian; testing and development work has taken place in the UK, with French, German and Scottish drivers doing the initial testing; the equally innovative tyres will come from France and now we have a top Japanese driver and extended support from NISMO in Japan.”
Don Panoz, Managing Partner, DeltaWing – Project 56, said: “We are very proud of our association with Nissan in the upcoming presentation of this high-technology assault on the Le Mans 24 Hours. Nissan has a great reputation as an innovator in the auto industry, and its participation with its drivers is very welcome.
“We are thrilled to welcome Motoyama-san to our driver line-up for Le Mans. He is massively experienced and, given the fact he is already working with Michael Krumm in SUPER GT in Japan, it makes for a perfect fit.”
Nissan DeltaWing’s testing in the UK comes to an end today, with the team learning more about the radical car, but continuing to fight against its biggest enemy – time. The short testing window continues in France and Spain next month, before closing when it joins its fellow Le Mans 24 Hour entrants at the official ACO pre-Le Mans test on June 3.